CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Presbyterian College football fell to Western Carolina, 33-21, on Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium in Cullowhee, N.C. in a game featured strong rains throughout. The Blue Hose fall to 1-4 with the loss, while Western Carolina evened its record at 2-2.
“I thought both teams really played hard tonight,” said PC head coach Harold Nichols. “It was just two good football teams, playing in the rain, with us on the road in a hostile environment. Western Carolina is a good football team. We were just unable to make as many plays down the field as they did. A lot of credit goes to Western Carolina.”
The key stretch in the contest came with PC trailing 26-21 early in the fourth quarter. Western Carolina defensive back Trey Morgan intercepted a Tamyn Garrick pass to give the Catamounts the ball at its own 42 with 12:00 to play in the game. Four plays later, Catamount quarterback Troy Mitchell rushed for a 36-yard touchdown to put Western Carolina in front for good with the eventual final score of 33-21.
Darrell Bridges led the PC offense with 121 rushing yards on 29 carries and a touchdown. It was third time this season that Bridges had eclipsed the 100-yard mark, while scoring his team-high fifth touchdown of the season. As a team, PC totaled 271 yards of total offense, its most against an FCS opponent this season and its second-highest total of the season.
Senior linebacker Donelle Williams once again led the PC defense with a team-high 13 tackles. It was his third straight game with double-digit tackles. He now has 346 for his career, moving him in to sixth place on the Big South career tackles list.
Quarterback Tamyn Garrick had one of his best outings of the season, completing 11-of-26 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown, the first through the air by PC this season. Freshman running back Quahlin Patterson recorded the first rushes of his career, carrying the ball three times for 25 yards. Joseph Purter recorded the longest play of the season by PC, a 49-yard reception to set up a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
PC scored first for the first time this season with a touchdown on its second drive of the game. The Blue Hose went 42 yards on seven plays with Bridges capping it off with a two-yard score, his fifth touchdown of the season, to put the Blue Hose in front 7-0.
Western Carolina would tie the game later in the first quarter, forcing a PC fumble that the Catamounts recovered on the Blue Hose 12-yard line. Two plays after the turnover, WCU quarterback Troy Mitchell connected with Tyler Sexton from nine yards out to tie it at 7-7 with 5:30 to play in the quarter.
The Catamounts then took their first lead of the game on a career-long, 46-yard field goal by Logan Howard early in the second quarter. The score capped off a 12-play, 59-yard drive that put Western Carolina in front 10-7.
Presbyterian would turn the momentum of the game midway through the second quarter. Obinna Ntiasagwe forced the ball out as he brought down Mitchell and Ugonna Akoh scooped it up and returned it 73 yards for the touchdown, putting PC up 14-10. It was the first defensive touchdown of the season by PC and marked the third defensive score by PC against the Catamounts over the past two meetings.
The momentum would be short lived, though, as two plays after the touchdown, Detrez Newsome ran 72 yards for the touchdown to swing the score back in the Catamounts favor, 17-14, with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
Western Carolina would open the scoring in the third quarter with another field goal from Howard, this time from 45 yards to give his team a 20-14 lead.
Presbyterian would respond midway later in the quarter with its first passing touchdown of the season. Facing a third-and-four from its own 35-yard line, Garrick found Purter deep down field for a 49-yard completion, PC’s longest play of the year, to put the ball just 16 yards from the goal line. Three plays later, Garrick would find DaShawn Davis in the corner of the endzone for the touchdown to put the Blue Hose back in front, 21-20, with 5:37 to play in the third quarter.
Western Carolina charged back with a seven-play, 80-yard drive to edge back in front. The Catamounts would go for two but the conversion try failed, keeping the score at 26-21. Western Carolina would then force the game-changing turnover on the ensuing PC drive to claim the victory.
Western Carolina was led by Mitchell with 301 yards of offense, 226 passing and 75 rushing, while accounting for two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing. Newsome rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns for the Catamounts and Karnorris Benson added 149 receiving yards on seven catches.
The Catamounts converted 11-of-18 third downs in the victory with PC converting 6-of-15. PC controlled the ball for 9:09 in the first quarter but lost the time of possession battle for the game 33:01 to 26:59.
The Blue Hose are winless in three tries on the road this season but trailed by a touchdown or less in the fourth quarter in two of three games.
The Blue Hose will look to bounce back next Saturday, October 10, when they start conference play on the road at No. 1 Coastal Carolina at 2 p.m.