WCU comes from behind to win 20-17 over #19 Eastern Kentucky

In what was a tail of two halfs, the Western Carolina Catamounts upset #19 Eastern Kentucky, 20-17. Trailing 17-7 at halftime, it was hard to see anything that Western had done right. EKU held onto the ball for 21:07 in the first half, while the WCU only had the ball for 8:53. The Colonels’ offense also outgained WCU’s offense 287 to 17 in the first half. The Western offense was horrible, and it was finally obvious that Western’s defense had lost many starters from last year’s stellar squad. Rust may have had something to do with as WCU hadn’t played in 17 days, but in any case, the Cats brought a totally different team out for the second half of play. In the second half, WCU flipped the possession time around as they held the ball for 17:49, while the Colonels held it for 12:11. WCU outgained the Colonels 219 to 76 in the second half and most importantly outscored the Colonels 13-0 in the second half. The defense matured, and the offense picked up their level of play just enough to win. The crowd was rocking at the beginning of the game, and WCU helped the effort by scoring on the opening drive. It wasn’t just any score, though. It was a blocked punt for a touchdown. After giving up a first down, the Catamount defense bowed up and forced a punt. On the ensuing punt attempt from their own 32-yard line the Colonels had their punt blocked by Mordy Ornguze. Ornguze, a junior college transfer from California, picked up the ball and raced into the endzone for his first Catamount touchdown. The score gave the Cats a 7-0 lead. EKU bounced back on the next possession. Running a Spread Option attack, the Colonels’ tailback Bobby Washington busted loose for 12 yards on the first play. That was followed by three straight runs by Greco for a total of 12 yards and the first down. On the next play Greco found Matt Schoborg for 10 yards and the first down, plus five yards for a face-masking penalty. EKU struggled over the next three downs though as there was a 5-yard run, an incomplete pass, a false start penalty, and finally a 7-yard pass to make it 4th-and-three. On 4th-and-three it looked like the Cats had all of the momentum, but then Greco found Patrick Bugg over the top for 33 yards and a touchdown. After a three-and-out by WCU, the Colonels came back on the field with the game tied 7-7. Starting at their own 20-yard line, EKU marched down to the WCU 19-yard line in 12 plays before hitting a 36-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead. After that, WCU came out with another three-and-out to give the ball right back. It didn’t take as long this time for the Colonels to score as it was four plays and paydirt. Greco ran for 11 yards, Washington ran for 11 yards, Greco found C.J. Walker for a four-yard gain, and then Greco connected with Bugg for an 18-yard touchdown pass to give EKU a 17-7 lead. The second half started off looking much the same for the Cats as they struggled on their first two offensive plays, but on 3rd-and-12 Bennett Swygert connected with Eddie Cohen for 29 yards and a first down. Darius Fudge took over from there as he bulled his way for 16 yards over the next two plays. WCU couldn’t move the ball much over the next three plays, and Jonathan Parsons came on to hit a 30-yard field goal and cut the score to 17-10. On the next drive, sophomore safety Brandon Breeden picked off a Greco pass on the Catamount 48-yard line before returning the ball to the EKU 38. After an incomplete pass, Fudge busted loose for 13 yards. A five yard face mask penalty pushed the ball up even more before Swygert connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass to a diving Chris Jefferson to tie the game at 17. EKU could not do anything on their next drive and were forced to punt. WCU kept their offensive momentum as they drove all the way down to the 1-yard line with big plays by Cohen and Fudge. But the Colonels stuffed the Cats on fourth down from the one to stop the drive. Instead of a shift in momentum for the Colonels, the Western defense stepped up and made a stop as true freshman Kadeem Morgan made a diving interception of a tipped Greco pass on the EKU 14-yard line. Western still couldn’t get into the endzone but this time they kicked a 25-yard field goal to go ahead 20-17. EKU would only threaten once more, but missed a 43-yard field goal wide right with 2:15 left in the game to seal their fate. The star on offense for the Cats was Fudge who showed he can be a workhorse by carrying the ball 26 times for 104 yards. Swygert didn’t play well in the first half. He completed 3 of 4 for 12 yards, but was sacked twice and only had one completion was for positive yards. The second half was better as the senior completed 9 of 14 for 117 yards, a touchdown pass, and no sacks. Cohen led the receiving effort as he caught 4 balls for 68 yards. The defensive effort in the second half was superb, and the true star was probably defensive coordinator Don Powers who made excellent adjustments in the second half. Shelton Gaffney led the defense in tackles, though, as he had seven including two for a loss. Carlton Bailey had six tackles and an interception, while Brandon Breeden finished with five tackles and an interception. Kadeem Morgan had only three tackles but also had an interception. Mordy Ornguze had two tackles, but had the blocked punt in the first quarter for a touchdown. Up next for WCU is #3 Furman. Furman will host the Cats and after being upset 41-21 in Cullowhee last year the Paladins will no doubt be looking for revenge. Furman just lost 45-42 in Chapel Hill to the University of North Carolina, so the Paladins are an even tougher team than Eastern Kentucky. Western will need a great effort to have a chance at upsetting Furman two years in a row, but don’t think that it can’t happen.