Davis, Defense Lead Western Carolina Past VMI, 38-17
Carlos Davis tossed four touchdown passes to four different receivers in guiding the Catamount offense while the defensive unit created three takeaways and seven sacks as Western Carolina claimed a 38-17 victory over VMI on Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference play at Bob Waters Field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.
With the victory, WCU second-year head coach Kerwin Bell earned his 100th career victory as a collegiate head coach. Bell scored 66 wins at Jacksonville University (66-35), 27 wins at Valdosta State (27-7), and earned his seventh victory in Cullowhee (7-9) to get to 100 overall.
Davis opened the game by connecting on his first 12 pass attempts finishing 30-of-44 for 336 yards with four TDs and two interceptions. The Baltimore, Md., connected with nine different receivers with Raphael Williams finishing with a team-best 103 yards on six catches while Jalynn Williams caught a career-best 10 passes for 94 yards to lead WCU. Freshman RB Desmond Reid just missed the century mark with 96 yards on 15 carries with TJ Jones tallying 56 yards on the ground including a six-yard score.
Terrence Horne tallied his team-leading fourth receiving touchdown of the season to open the scoring, capping a 60-yard drive with the 21-yard strike for the early lead midway through the first quarter. VMI responded, though, as quarterback Collin Ironside capped an 88-yard march with a 16-yard romp up the middle to even the game at seven. Jones put the Catamounts ahead for what proved to be for good with a six-yard scoring run to make it 14-7 after one-quarter of play.
Early in the second quarter, WCU’s defense stood tall to halt a VMI drive as a pass interference call gave the Keydets a first-and-goal situation from the two-yard line. After a one-yard run on first down put the ball a yard away from paydirt, Hayward McQueen delivered a tackle for loss after a completion in the flat to push VMI back to the three-yard line before Mateo Sudipo sacked sophomore QB Collin Ironside for a three-yard loss in forcing a 24-yard chip-shot field goal and a 14-10 WCU lead.
The Catamounts managed to push the lead to 21-10 at halftime as David White Jr., caught a 17-yard TD pass from Davis at the 5:33 mark of the second quarter.
Scoring was slowed at the start of the second half before Richard McCollum knocked through a 20-yard field goal to push the lead to 14 at 24-10. The Catamounts then took advantage of a turnover as EJ Porter forced a fumble on a sack of Ironside that Ronald Wilson pounced on at the 21-yard line. One play later, Davis found Censere Lee alone in the endzone for the 21-point, 31-10 lead.
Ironside hit TE Aidan Twombly on a seven-yard touchdown pass to cap the Keydet scoring early in the fourth quarter before Davis hit Raphael Williams in stride on a 69-yard pitch-and-catch, the longest play from scrimmage on Saturday, to provide the final tally at 38-17.
WCU again eclipsed the 500-yard mark in total offense, throwing for 360 total yards with 161 combined yards on the ground to amass 521 total yards. The Catamounts limited VMI to 270 yards of offense including 194 yards passing and just 76 on the ground.
For VMI, Ironside finished 14-of-27 with a TD pass and one on the ground but was sacked five times and tossed two interceptions in the loss. Seth Morgan completed just four of his 12 attempts in relief and was dropped twice on sacks. Chance Knox caught nine passes for a game-high 105 yards with Korey Bridy rushing for 70 yards for the Keydets.
Sophomore DB Andreas Keaton matched a career-high eight tackles to lead the Catamount defense, adding his second interception of the year – one of two picks by WCU as Jacob Harris tallied the squad’s first takeaway with a pick. Sudipo was credited with six tackles including five solo stops and a sack. Defensive ends Micah Nelson and KJ Milner both finished with 1.5 sacks as seven defenders tallied at least half a sack in the winning effort.
Western Carolina (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) hits the road for back-to-back road games in conference play beginning next Saturday, Oct. 8, as the Catamounts head to Macon, Ga., to face the nationally-ranked Mercer Bears (4-1, 2-0 SoCon). Kickoff from Five Star Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m., on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with coverage on the Catamount Sports Networking beginning at 3 p.m.