WCU falls to The Citadel in home opener

The Western Carolina University Catamounts lost to The Citadel Bulldogs on Saturday, Sept. 14.

With the loss, WCU drops to 0-3 and 0-1 within the Southern Conference. The Catamounts are continuing a 13-game losing streak that started during the 2012 season. The loss also extended the Catamounts’ losing streak within the SoCon to 23 games.

The young teams’ talent has certainly been tested as of late. After closing out the 2012 season with a loss to Alabama, WCU opened up 2013 losing to Middle Tennessee and Virginia Tech, both Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams. WCU will play 3 FBS teams this season when they travel to Alabama to play Auburn on October 12.

Catamount nation had high hopes for the team on Saturday as they hoped to end the two game losing streak to The Citadel. Open House earlier in the morning provided for a large attendance, with the number of attendees totaling 9,345.

The first play of the game was an overthrown deep pass by Citadel quarterback Ben Dupree to a wide open receiver. During that first drive, The Citadel scored.

In the first quarter, WCU punter Clark Sechrest mishandled a snap and fumbled the ball, which The Citadel recovered and ran it in for a touchdown.

“We got an experienced punter who got a low snap, but he looked up to see the rush instead of catching the ball and believing in his protection,” said Head Coach Mark Speir. “That’s one particular that is seven points, and we lose by seven.”

Citadel scored again and lead at halftime with a score of 21-0.

Speir said, “They shut us out in the first half and made a hole that was too deep for us to climb out.”

WCU came out in the second half to get on the board with a 10 play, 78-yard touchdown drive. The Citadel responded with another touchdown drive, increasing their lead to 28-7.

WCU sent a wave of energy through the crowd when sophomore quarterback Troy Mitchell broke away for a career long 53-yard run. WCU converted for a touchdown.

After an interception, WCU again drove down the field to score, making it a 1 possession game. Fans were on their feet as they witnessed the 21-0 lead go to The Citadel becoming just a 28-21 lead.

On their last offensive possession, WCU’s Mitchell threw a Hail Mary pass on fourth down that was intercepted. The Citadel took possession and ran the clock out, winning with a final score of 28-21.

Mitchell went 16-22, threw for 136 yards with a touchdown and an interception. WCU showed one of their major weaknesses as they struggled to stop The Citadel’s running game, which racked up a total of 343 yards. However, both teams had a good running game.

Mitchell and Ramsey ran over 100 yards each, a career high for both athletes.

Though the Catamounts came up short, the crowd was pleased and proud of their second half comeback.

“The Citadel created turnovers and a touchdown on special teams,” said Speir. “I’m proud of the way our guys fought back, but we made way too many mistakes in assignments and alignments and that is our fault as coaches. It’s inexcusable.”

One thing Speir has stressed to the fans and media is how young the team is.

“Sometimes you get youth in there, and that’s what we got,” said Speir. “We are proud to have them. I’m not making excuses at all, but we were simulating with a scout team and a team that knows how to run it.”

The players were down after being so close to a fourth quarter victory.

“When we started picking it up, it was too late,” said Andre Shishkin, a defensive tackle for the Catamounts. “We need to fix some mistakes. We need to play a good game the whole game.”

“I think it was kind of nerves at the beginning. So, in the second half everybody calmed down and started to play football,” Mitchell said. “We have to look at the film, learn from it, and come back next week and have a successful game.”

Despite the 0-3 start, the team remains optimistic about their season.

“In my opinion, this team has not changed,” said Speir. “We are going to be a good football team, with no question in my mind. We got good athletes; we’ve got good people, good students, and character guys.”

The team and fans are expecting to win next week when they play Mars Hill, whom they have a winning streak with.