Western Carolina holds off VMI football rally, wins 42-27
VMI redshirt freshman quarterback Al Cobb added more records to his outstanding debut season, but the Western Carolina Catamounts were able to hold off a second half VMI charge to down the Keydets, 42-27 before 8,339 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Cobb completed 19 of 45 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns and became the VMI single season passing leader with 2,575 yards and also set a new mark for single season total offense with 2,673 yards.
The Keydets had no answer however, for WCU quarterback Troy Mitchell who completed 32 of 42 passes for 339 yards and tossed five touchdowns, four that came in the first half and helped the Catamounts build a pair of 21-point leads.
The Keydets (2-9, 1-5) rallied to twice pull within a score in the second half and moved the ball to the WCU 39-yard line trailing 35-27, but linebacker Christon Gill picked off a Cobb pass and returned it to the WCU 40 with 6:40 remaining. Two plays later, Mitchell scampered to the end zone on a 55-yard keeper around right end to repel VMI’s last serious threat of the game.
The Catamounts (7-4, 5-2) outgained VMI, 640-471 and converted 10 of 16 third downs while balancing their attack with 339 passing yards and 301 rushing yards. Four of Mitchell’s TD teamed with redshirt junior Karnorris Benson who finished with eight catches for 127 yards. Sophomore Terryon Robinson snagged 12 receptions for 127 yards to top the Catamount charts.
Two Catamounts backs produced 100-yard games as Darius Ramsey rushed for a game-high 128 yards on 19 carries and Mitchell contributed 109 yards and his decisive fourth-quarter score.
Sophomore Aaron Sanders led VMI receivers with four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown while junior Sam Patterson added five catches for 67 yards for the visitors.
The VMI offense surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the second straight game with 150 yards on the ground. Senior Deon Watts gained 60 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown while Cobb added 45 yards on the ground.
Freshman linebacker Alan Cratsenburg led the Keydet defensive charts with 17 tackles including eight solo stops and outside linebacker Ryan Francis contributed 12 tackles including eight solos.
Western Carolina was led defensively by Gill who logged eight tackles to go along with his crucial fourth quarter interception that stemmed the Keydet momentum.
The Mitchell-Benson TD connection helped WCU race to a 21-0 advantage with 10:18 to go in the second quarter and the contest had the makings of a rout before VMI got on the board with a 4-play, 65-yard drive capped by a Watts 9-yard burst up the middle. Watts added a 27-yard rush earlier in the scoring possession and a 44-yard completion from Cobb to Sanders to the WCU 9 set up VMI’s first score of the game one play later.
The Catamounts countered to push their lead back to 28-7 when Mitchell flipped a 28-yard TD pass to a wide open Benson at the 4:53 mark of the second quarter, but VMI closed out the first-half scoring when sophomore Dillon Christopher knocked through a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-10 at halftime. It was Christopher’s third field goal from 40 or more yards this season.
The VMI offense found its rhythm in the second half and took the opening drive 89 yards in five plays and scored a 44-yard strike from Cobb to Sanders to cut WCU’s lead to 28-17. Christopher converted a 38-yarder at the 5:02 mark of the third quarter to pull the Keydets within 28-20 on a drive that featured eight rushes and only one pass completion.
WCU got some breathing room when Miller flipped a five-yard TD pass to tight end Tyler Sexton to extend the game to 35-20 as it headed into the final period.
VMI’s final push was keyed by a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with spectacular touchdown end zone catch by senior Doug Burton that was heavily challenged by WCU defenders. Christopher’s extra point followed to pull VMI within 35-27 with 12:32 remaining, but the Keydets could pull no closer to their Southern Conference rival.
VMI closes out the 2014 season at home next Saturday against The Citadel in the” Military Classic of the South.” Kick off at Foster Stadium in Lexington is 1:30 p.m.
VMI Head Coach Sparky Woods –
“We did battle back in the second half and I was proud of them for doing that. We were poor on defense and they are very good on offense with big, tall receivers and that quarterback (Mitchell) is an excellent player. We couldn’t cover the deep ball in the first half, and couldn’t tackle their quarterback in the second half.”
“I think the team keeps playing hard. It’s a shame we couldn’t get off the field. We didn’t have the short field one time today. We weren’t able to slow them down much. Offensively, we were having to come from behind all day and when you do that it makes you one dimensional. I thought we had a chance to score at the end and go for an onside kick to tie it up, but our guys kept playing hard and I am proud of them for that. Western has got a good team.”