Western Carolina University (WCU) scored a school-record 45 points in the first half of their home opener against the Mars Hill Lions last Saturday, Sept. 10.
At halftime, the Catamounts lead 45-17, and had an early start in picking up their first home victory since fall of 2009 and their first team victory in seven games that dates back to October of the 2010-2011 season. The Catamounts’ 52-31 point scoring home opener at E.J. Whitmire Stadium sent the Lions home with a loss.
“The guys played a full four quarters, and that is exactly what we needed to do in order to win,” said Kellen Bewsey, assistant equipment manager for the Catamounts. Bewsey, a WCU alumni, has worked with WCU's football team since high school and says this year's team is among the best he has seen. “It was a great day to be a Catamount,” Bewsey said of Saturday's win.
At the end of the first quarter, the Catamounts came back from starting the game down 7-0. A packed Catamount stadium crowd remained on their feet for two one-play, long pass drives that came less than two minutes after one another and both put points on the board for WCU and rounded out the half with an unanswered 14-point scoring drive and were ahead of Mars hill, 21-14.
Paired with a relentless defensive line, WCU’s offense forced their way up the field scoring three touchdowns at the end of the second half finishing up the first half, 45-17. The drive broke school records and left the Catamounts confident going into the third quarter. Continuing the scoring drive, Western put another touchdown on the score board and continued to hold off the Lions at 52-17.
Mars Hill was able to secure two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but failed to catch up with the outstanding force shown by the Catamounts in the home opener, ending WCU’s first game with a 52-31 victory.
The Lions scored the first touchdown of the game when Jonas Randolph broke free from the Catamount defense for a swift 56-yard touchdown run to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.
WCU recorded an impressive 663 yards of total offense with 322 passing yards which includes a career-best 322 by sophomore quarterback Brandon Pechloff.
Bewsey expressed that the 17-of-29 passes that Pechloff completed, which included a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, were essential for the Catamount victory. Pechloff’s yardage gain included a 75-yard pass-and-run assist with WCU junior Jacoby Mitchell.
During Saturday’s game, junior Michael Vaughn gained positive yards on all of the 19 carries he had against the Lions to finish the game with a career-best 104 yards, giving the Catamounts two backs who have gained over 100 yards in the same game for the very first time since 1996.
Catamount freshman running back Shaun Warren joined Vaughn in setting a tone for the Catamounts after rushing for a career-best 203 yards and four touchdowns as Warren dominated a Catamount rushing attack that amassed 328 yards on the ground.
According to Bewsey, Warren’s rushing offense set the standard for the season by gaining the most rushing yards since the 2004 home win over West Virginia State. “Warren played a tremendous game, especially being a true freshman. He is going to be an asset to us this season,” explained Bewsey.
The Catamounts will rest up next weekend during their open week, but will be returning to action on Saturday, September 24 for the Southern Conference opener at Georgia Southern. The Catamounts will kick off from Statesboro, Georgia at 6:00 pm.