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  • Daniel Hooker

Turnovers Prove Costly in 35-17 Road Loss at Georgia Tech

Carlos Davis threw a pair of first quarter touchdowns as Western Carolina jumped out to an early 14-7 lead, but four turnovers proved costly as Georgia Tech used a strong ground attack and four-consecutive touchdowns including a 14-point second quarter to upend the upset-minded Catamounts 35-17 on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Dodging misting rain showers, Davis connected with Terrence Horne on a 49-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring and hit Toler Keigley on a wheel route for a 22-yard score as the Catamounts led 14-7 at the 5:37 mark of the second quarter. However, the Yellow Jackets a minute later with a 51-yard touchdown run by Dontae Smith to start a string of four-straight scores and included a 14-point second quarter to carry a 28-14 lead into halftime.

The two teams combined for just 10 points in the second half with Tech tacking on a late third quarter touchdown before Richard McCollum split the uprights on a 44-yard field goal to cap scoring early in the fourth quarter to provide the final tally.

“As I told the team, I was very proud of the way they competed. I also hope that they were honest with themselves that we can be a much better football team then what we are right now,” said WCU head coach Kerwin Bell during postgame comments with the media. “The one thing that came back to get us tonight were those four turnovers which we’ve been talking about since last season, cleaning those things up. But I loved the way we competed; I loved the way we continued to play hard.”

Davis finished 18-of-27 passing for 233 yards with the two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions and also lost a fumble in the third quarter on an errant snap. Sacked three times, Davis rushed for a combined 38 yards. True freshman Cole Gonzales saw his most extensive action, completing 6-of-8 passes for 38 yards and was intercepted once.

Freshman RB Desmond Reid accounted for 112 all-purpose yards including team bests with 47 yards on the ground and four catches for 65 receiving yards. His classmate Corey Reddick ran for 32 yards on six carries, posting positive yards on each carry. Tight end Ajay Belanger had a team-high six catches for 42 yards. A combined 12 different players recorded receptions for the Catamounts including Davis who caught a batted ball on one of his pass attempts.

All told, Western Carolina outgained Georgia Tech 390-to-343 in total offensive yards in the loss.

For Georgia Tech, quarterback Jeff Sims completed just 8-of-17 passes for 100 yards with an interception, adding 48 rushing yards. The Ramblin’ Wreck rushed for 243 total yards as a team including 102 yards and three touchdowns by Dontae Smith. Wideout Nate McCollum added 47 yards on the ground including a 40-yard touchdown rush with a pair of catches for 17 yards and Dylan McDuffie scored on a two-yard plunge for the home squad.

Sophomore Andreas Keaton paced the Catamount defense with seven tackles including three solo stops with one for loss, adding a pass breakup. Rod Gattison was credited with four tackles and came up with WCU’s lone takeaway with an interception. Mateo Sudipo, Cameron McCutcheon, and Skylin Thomas also each posted four tackles apiece.

Western Carolina (1-1) opens the home portion of its 2022 schedule next Saturday, Sept. 17, hosting the Presbyterian Blue Hose (1-1) at Bob Waters Field / E.J. Whitmire Stadium in Cullowhee. WCU looks to “White Out Whitmire” with all fans encouraged to wear their white Catamount gear for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

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