By Justin Caudell
Western snapped a 14-game losing streak on the road, and beat last year’s win count, in a victory against Presbyterian College on Sept. 21 in Clinton, South Carolina.
The last time WCU defeated an opponent away from Cullowhee was in 2005 at Chattanooga. The win also gave the Catamounts’ two W’s on the year to surpass the one win season WCU had in 2007.
The Catamounts struck first in the game on Sept. 21 in the second quarter when Western drove 79 yards in 13 plays to finish with a field goal kick by junior Black Bostic. The 3-0 lead was short lived though as the Blue Hose responded on their next possession with a one yard touchdown after going 75 yards in 10 plays for a 7-3 advantage.
Western had good field advantage on the pursuing kickoff after a Presbyterian celebration penalty, but WCU had to settle for a second field goal by Bostic. Before the half, the Blue Hose extended their lead to 14-6 when a 77 yard, 7 play drive ended in the end zone.
Following the break, a defensive battle took place between Western and Presbyterian, but the Catamounts broke the stalemate with Bostic’s third field goal of the game with 01:25 remaining in the third quarter. The field goal was a career-long for Bostic, who booted the ball 39 yards to inch WCU closer to the Blue Hose at a score of 14-9.
The Catamounts got their first touchdown of the game on their next possession in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Western moved 97 yards in eight plays, which was the longest drive of the season, that included double-digit runs of 16, 11 and 12 yards by red-shirt freshman Quan Warley, and a 29-yard pass from senior quarterback Andy Horn to senior Donald James. The two hooked up again to cap the drive with a 16-yard, pass-and-catch into the end zone to give WCU the lead, 17-14.
Presbyterian regained the lead 21 – 17 with 07:14 remaining in the fourth quarter with a 4 yard TD pass after a 9 play, 40 yard drive. But Western jumped on top with three minutes left in the game. Starting at their own 30 yard line after a 19-yard kickoff return by red-shirt sophomore Adam Hearns, Horn marched the Catamounts down the field after capitalizing on an 11-yard pass to Hearns and a game-long, 39-yard strike to red-shirt sophomore Michael Pittman.
In the red zone, Horn found Pittman again on a fourth-and-goal pass into the right corner of the end zone where Pittman reeled in the ball between two defenders for the go-ahead score, 23-21.
The Blue Hose had a chance to win the game with less than two minuetes in the game, but a field goal kick went wide left.
“Any win for us at this time is a big win,” said head coach Dennis Wagner. “I told the team I didn’t care what the score was, we just wanted to walk away with a victory.”
Wagner said he cautioned the team after the win that mistakes were made in the game that would need to be improved on.
“As a coach, every time you win a game, you have to step back and compliment the team on the win,” said Wagner. “But also warn them that when they come in to watch film that we have to make corrections and get better. As a coaching staff, we have to keep demanding that our guys do things right and understand that you play four quarters of football.”
By the numbers, Western dominated in total offense with 483 yards, compared to the Blue Hose 313. Through the air, Horn finished 24-of-35 against Presbyterain for 241 yards passing and two TDs, both career highs. Pittman led in receiving with 106 yards on 7 catches and had a touchdown. While Hearns had 52 yards on 7 catches.
On the ground, Warley rushed for 202 yards on 29 carries to became just the eighth different Catamount to surpass 200 yards rushing in a single-game. His performance was also just the 10th, 200-yard rushing performance in school history and WCU’s first since Fred Boateng rushed for 213 against Georgia Southern in 2000. Horn also rushed 11 times for 31 yards, including a career-long, 19-yard scramble in the first quarter.
The Catamounts had possession of the ball for 39:07 to Presbyterian’s 20:53.
Western tried to carry their momentum from the win over to their first Southern Conference game in Charleston, South Carolina against The Citadel on Sept. 27, but the WCU offense was not able to capitlize on three turnovers to get the ball rolling. The Bulldogs took an early 31-0 lead to win 34-14.
Hearns and freshman Nate Harris each caught their first career touchdown pass from Horn in the loss.
“There is a lot from today that we need to work on,” said Wagner. “We had no consistency from our offense, poor reads by our quarterback, and receivers dropped passes. Defensively, we only played in spurts.
“We did not have the performance today to be able to win games in the Southern Conference.”
The loss against The Citadel was Western’s 16th striaght loss in the SoCon and moved the Catamounts to 2-3 on the year, 0-1 in conference.
WCU had their first home Southern Conference game amidst homecoming weekend on Oct. 4 against Samford, playing on a new turf and in front of a regional audience on WLOS-13 television.
Results of the game will appear in the next edition of the Carolinian.