• Daniel Hooker

Davis Throws for 400 Yards, 6 TDs in Season-Opening Road Win

Carlos Davis threw for a career-high 433 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes going to six different receivers as Western Carolina won its 2022 season opener on Saturday afternoon, 52-38, over Charleston Southern at Buccaneer Field.

Dating back to last season, the Catamounts have won five of their last six games overall that includes four-straight road games. The season-opening road victory was the first for WCU away from home since 2002 and represented career win No. 98 for second-year head coach Kerwin Bell.

Davis tallied the second 400-yard passing game of his WCU career, both coming in the South Carolina Lowcountry as the Baltimore, Md., native threw for 401 yards in a road win at The Citadel last fall. His 433 yards on Saturday represented just the 10th 400-yard passing game by a WCU quarterback all-time with his total tying for the second-most in program history, matching Don Dalton’s 433 yards against Emory & Henry back in 1969.

Raphael Williams posted his fourth career, double-digit reception game with 10 catches for a game-high 112 receiving yards, his sixth 100-yard receiving game. Tight end Ajay Belanger caught five passes for 58 yards as nine different Catamounts recorded receptions. Freshman Desmond Reid rushed for 69 yards including a 43-yard touchdown to lead WCU’s 183-yard rushing performance.

Davis connected on 10 of his first 12 pass attempts with two going for touchdowns on consecutive attempts, hitting redshirt freshman Toler Keigley on an 18-yard strike for his first career catch and score before dropping a 72-yard pass to true freshman Censere Lee for a 17-7 lead late in the first quarter. Midway through the second, Davis found Terrence Horne on a 30-yard pitch-and-catch with transfer RB Jalynn Williams scoring on a 12-yard Davis pass to stake the visitors to a 31-7 lead late in the second quarter.

The Buccaneers hit a 50-yard field goal and converted a Catamount red-zone turnover into an 86-yard scoring drive in the two-minute drill to make it 31-17 at intermission.

After the defense forced a punt out of the halftime locker room, Davis capped a two-play drive with a 53-yard touchdown strike to David White Jr. to give the Catamounts a 37-17 advantage. The Buccaneers wouldn’t go away, though, scoring back-to-back touchdowns less than two minutes a part to close to within a score, 38-31, at the 10:15 mark of the third quarter.

The Catamounts responded with consecutive scores of their own as Reid twisted his way through a 43-yard touchdown run at the 7:42 mark of the third quarter. WCU ultimately sealed the victory with a nine-play, 76-yard drive with Davis hitting his sixth TD strike on a nine-yard pass to Raphael Williams.

All told, the two teams mirrored each other with 21 points apiece after intermission to provide the final tally with CSU capping scoring with a 15-yard TD pass with 1:39 showing on the scoreboard.

Linebacker EJ Porter paced the Catamounts with seven tackles including a sack, followed by Ed Jones IV, Andreas Keaton, and Mateo Sudipo, each credited with six stops. Jones recorded two of WCU’s six combined sacks on the day to lead the defense.

Western Carolina outgained Charleston 616-to-481 on the day including a 183-to-89 advantage on the ground and a slight 433-to-392 edge through the air. WCU’s defense created two turnovers to counter four giveaways on offense, forcing three fumbles with one recovery. Transfer DB Taurus Dotson Jr., tallied an interception and Jaquarius Guinn recovering a fumble punched loose on a sack by Va Lealaimatafao.

Western Carolina (1-0) plays its second of consecutive road games to open the 2022 season next Saturday, Sept 10, traveling to Atlanta, Ga., to face ACC-foe, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Tech opens its season on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 5 in the Mayhem at Mercedez-Benz Stadium, facing the Clemson Tigers at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN.

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