Western Carolina’s defense held the University of Tennessee Chattanooga to a season-low point total and outgained them by nearly 100 yards in total offense en route to a 21-3 victory last Thursday.
The win was the second in a row for the Cats and kept them in a tie for third place in the Southern Conference with mountain rival Appalachian State.
Western’s first scoring chance came early in the first quarter. After both teams exchanged punts on their opening drives, Western strung together a 17-play drive that took them to the UTC nine-yard line. Freshman Shon Rowser missed a 26-yard field goal, however, on fourth down to keep the game scoreless.
Early in the second half, however, the defense set up WCU’s first score. Sophomore defensive end Nick McNeil recorded two sacks in three plays to force the Mocs deep into their own territory.
Chattanooga Travis Grubb then mishandled the punt attempt and was tackled at the UTC three-yard line where Western took over. On the ensuing play, sophomore tailback Fred Boateng ran in the game’s first touchdown five minutes into the second quarter.
The WCU defense again gave the offense a short field by forcing the Mocs to punt after three plays on their next drive. Another mishap by Grubb, this time a 22-yard punt, gave the Cat offense the ball on the 48-yard line.
Three plays later, junior quarterback Pat Cilento connected with junior flanker Michael Banks for a 32-yard touchdown strike. The score moved Banks into fifth place in school history with 15 career touchdown receptions and enabled WCU to retire to the locker room with a 14-0 lead.
Receiving the kickoff in the second half, UTC finally managed to move the ball on the Catamounts. A 15-play, 63-yard drive led to a 29-yard Ben Thompson field goal narrowed the Western lead to 11 but would turn out to be the only score for the Mocs.
With both Boateng and fellow tailback senior Donnie Bryant sidelined with minor injuries, sophomore running back Manny DeShauteurs carried the rushing load in the second half. Early in the fourth quarter, DeShauteurs capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown rush, his second in as many games. He ran for 27 yards on seven carries during the drive.
WCU’s defenders preserved the victory by stopping UTC twice inside the Western ten-yard line, once by forcing a fumble which sophomore recovered Michale Spicer and the other by stopping the Mocs on downs at the four-yard line.
The strong defensive effort produced career high tackles for junior free safety Justin Fryer (15), senior strong safety Pat Leach (13) and freshman outside linebacker Tyler Norman (11). McNeil’s two sacks moved him into a tie for the Southern Conference lead with six on the season.
Overall, the Catamounts outgained the Mocs in total offensive yardage 337-245, including a 180-68 advantage on the ground. UTC managed to gain only 3.7 yards per play of total offense and converted just 4-of-15 third-down conversions.
DeShauteurs led the Western rushing attack with 72 yards on 18 carries, all in the second half. Boateng added 38 yards while junior fullback Toren Gordon chipped in 37 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Brian Gaither had another strong outing as the starting quarterback, completing 14-of-24 passes for 102 yards. Cilento added 55 yards on four completions and the game’s only passing touchdown.
This week, Western will invite its alumni back for Homecoming as they take on the league’s perennial bottom dweller, the Keydets of VMI (1-5, 1-3). In a question airing on catamountsports.com, head coach Bill Bleil feels confident his team will be ready to take on the Keydets despite the fact that many may take lowly VMI lightly.
“VMI, although only having one win this season, is a good team,” he said. “The Keydets always play hard and are the best team in the league on special teams.”
“Because our players see these things on film, we have had good efforts at practice,” he added. “I believe the players understand what the task at hand is and how to accomplish their goals.”