By Justin Caudell
Despite maintaining possession of the football for five minutes longer than the opposition, Western was shut down by the Seminoles of Florida State University on Saturday, September 6 in Tallahassee, Florida.
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour 21 minutes because of lightning, but Florida State did not miss a beat as they struck less than two minutes into the game. After Western went three-and-out on its opening possession, FSU’s Tony Carter raced 68-yards to the end zone after returning freshman Blake Cain’s punt that sailed 44 yards. Before the Catamounts had a chance to respond, a second weather-related delay was put into effect which lasted just under an hour.
Once play resumed, a defensive battle ensued as neither team could score in nearly twenty minutes of play. Western put together one of its better sustained drives of the game in the latter part of the first quarter with an eight-play, 43 yard drive, but the offense stalled on a third down play in Florida State territory and had to punt. WCU inched toward the goal line again with only a yard to go to move the chains later in the half, but the Catamounts surrendered the possession on downs.
Western maintained stability in the game, trailing by only a touchdown, 7-0, midway through the second quarter, but the Catamounts surrendered three quick touchdowns in the final 6:54 of the half to give the Seminoles a 28-0 lead.
Following the break, Florida State scored on their opening drive, and second and third possessions of the second half, to put the game out of reach 48-0. The Seminoles went on to win by a final margin of 69-0, giving FSU its largest margin of victory in school’s history. The win also gave Florida State’s head coach Bobby Bowden his 374th career win to keep him tied with Penn State head coach Joe Paterno for most wins among college coaches.
By the numbers, Western was dominated in total offense. Florida State had 561 yards, including 290 on the ground and 271 through the air. WCU had 176 yards, of which 57 were rushing and 119 passing. The Catamounts held the ball for 32:16 versus the Seminoles 27:44.
Red-shirt sophomore Marquel Pittman led Western Carolina on offense with five catches for 89 yards, including a 28-yard, catch-and-run in which he juked past several Seminole defensive backs. Red-shirt freshman Quan Warley rushed a career-best 14 times for 38 yards, while classmate Josh Wright touched the ball five times for 23 yards, all positive plays.
Senior quarterback Andy Horn was 6-17 with 53 yards, and red-shirt sophomore Adam Hearns was 4-6 with 66 yards.
Defensively, senior Abram Scott led the squad with seven solo stops, while freshman Jarmarcus Douglas finished with six tackles, three solos and three assists.
The loss was Western’s third all-time to FSU and was the biggest margin of defeat in the series. The 1981 Catamounts scored 31 points on FSU – the most points a WCU squad has ever tallied against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe – in a 56-31 defeat. Despite the 25-point margin of defeat, Western only trailed at intermission, 13-7.
The shut out loss on Saturday was the first-time Western had been held scoreless since falling 62-0 to Florida in the Swamp to end the 2006 season.
“I’m totally embarrassed by the performance of our football team,” said head coach Dennis Wagner. “It is one thing to get beat, it’s another to not operate and function properly. We had too many substitution problems with wasted first downs; we had penalties; we were wasting time-outs to get players on the field and that’s unacceptable. This football team did not perform to its ability.”
Western Carolina, which is on 1-1 on the season, will look to rebound from the Florida loss at home on Saturday, September 13 against the Liberty Flames at 6:00 pm at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.