WCU misses three field goals in 17-14 OT loss to Chattanooga

Missed opportunities and missed field goals sum up Western Carolina’s 17-14 OT loss to Chattanooga (3-4, 2-2 SoCon) on Oct. 14. The Catamounts (2-4, 0-4 SoCon) missed three field goals in the game, including one in overtime, and were stopped on fourth and goal on the one yard line in the first quarter. With those points the Cats should have won in regulation by a score of 27-14, but instead ended up dropping their Homecoming game. The game was very much like the “Bizarro Seinfeld” episode. UTC kicker Esteban Lopez had missed his last two field goals coming into the game, while WCU kicker Jonathan Parsons was coming off a game in which he hit two career-long 41-yard field goals. This time it was the exact opposite as Lopez hit a 37-yarder to win the game in overtime, while Parsons missed three field goals…a 25-yard chip shot in the second quarter, a very long 48-yarder in the second quarter, and then a 41-yarder that bounced off the left upright in overtime. The game started off wildly as Bennett Swygert threw an interception on the first Catamount drive, but Chattanooga countered by being stuffed on fourth and four in their own territory. With the ball on the seven-yard line, Western ran three straight times to get down to the one yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the one, Western decided to try a toss around the outside to Mike Malone instead of going straight ahead and was stuffed for a loss. This play would be a key in the game as it would represent one of the many opportunities Western squandered in regulation that could have won the game. The game was scoreless until midway through the second quarter when Western hit two big plays in a row as Swygert found Eddie Cohen for a 24-yard gain and then Darius Fudge found the end zone on a 15-yard run. That gave WCU a 7-0 lead with 2:55 left and it looked as if it would be a halftime lead with the good defense the Cats were playing. That is when UTC struck back as they hit seven straight passes to the right side of the field, including five straight to Emanuel Hassell. Western was playing zone coverage with a huge cushion and never adjusted on the drive. UTC quarterback Matt Lopez eventually found Michael Johnson in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven going into halftime. Western’s defense atoned for their first-half sins at the beginning of the second half as Mitchell Dukes intercepted a UTC pass and took it 28 yards for a touchdown. Of course Chattanooga tied the game on the very next drive as they took 17 plays and nine minutes off the clock before getting into the end zone. In another “Bizarro moment,” Chattanooga had the ball on fourth and goal from the one-yard line and instead of tossing it backwards like Western did earlier in the same situation, they plunged ahead with the quarterback for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. The game went into overtime from there as the fourth quarter was relatively uneventful. While Western lost, they received a great performance from their defense which really only struggled on two drives. Western did give up 162 yards rushing to UTC running back Eldra Buckley, but Buckley is a Walter Payton award candidate so that is to be expected. The Catamount offense struggled once again as it looks like their depth at running back and wide receiver will go lost this season with poor play calling and poor blocking. Tailback Darius Fudge finished the game with 151 yards rushing and a touchdown, but instead of handing it to him on fourth and goal from the one, they tossed it to backup Mike Malone. The Cats will have to try to bounce back on the road as their next three games will be away from home, with The Citadel up next.