WCU wins 17th straight against VMI, moves to 2-7.
By Carey Phillips
Even in a season when Western Carolina had losing streaks reaching nine on the road, 12 in the Southern Conference and 15 games to Division I opponents, some things never change.
The Catamounts (2-7, 1-5) extended their winning streak over Virginia Military to 17 Saturday with a 43-35 road win before 4,568 fans at Foster Stadium. The team’s last win over a Division I and conference opponent was against VMI last year.
Donnavan Spencer carried 28 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He caught two passes for 110 yards and a score and was named Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
Julian Pletz, who was four of four on extra points and three of three on field goals, was chosen Southern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
Tyrie Adams completed 14 of 22 passes for 322 yards and three TDs. Daquan Patten had five receptions for 103 yards and a score.
Reece Udinski completed 23 of 31 passes for 317 yards for the Keydets. Jakob Herres had seven catches for 105 yards.
Alex Ramsey scored three TDs and rushed for 143 yards in 29 attempts.
VMI lost by two points last year when a two-point conversion failed near the end of the game.
There was a similar situation this time after Udinski’s 62-yard TD pass to Leroy Thomas cut the gap to 37-35 with 3:10 on the clock. It came two plays after a punt, but a conversion pass was incomplete.
WCU picked up one first down before Adams hooked up with Patten on a 42-yard TD pass on the game’s final play.
VMI did not punt the entire game but committed five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception). Western punted twice and had two turnovers.
Aided by a face mask penalty, the Keydets drove nine plays in 60 yards to open the game. Udinski completed passes of 16 yards to Herres and 18 yards to Javeon Lara. Ramsey scored from a yard out, and Grant Clemons kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 12:02 to play in the first quarter.
The Cats wasted no time tying it 7-7 as Adams completed a pass to Spencer, who turned it into a 78-yard TD with 11:45 on the clock.
Two plays after the kickoff, Udinski fumbled. K.J. Milner recovered and had a 16-yard return to the 4.
Adams gave the ball right back when he fumbled, and Jarrod Richmond recovered at the 19.
The turnover parade continued when Max Brimigion fumbled after catching a 21-yard pass from Charles Gadie, and Ronald Kent recovered at the VMI 38.
This time Western took advantage and went up 14-7 with 5:42 to go in the opening period on a 13-yard pass from Adams to D.J. Thorpe. Spencer gained 4 yards on fourth-and-2 in the eight-play march, and Adams completed a 26-yard pass to Connell Young.
Korey Bridy had a 49-yard kickoff return to the 46. Ramsey had a 14-yard run, and the Cats committed a personal foul penalty in the five-play drive. Ramsey scored form the 11, but Clemons missed the extra point leaving WCU on top 14-13 with 3:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Runs of 16 and 11 yards by Young put the Cats in position for Pletz’s 44-yard field goal and a 17-13 lead with 14:50 left in the half.
The Keydets took a 19-13 lead on Ramsey’s 3-yard TD run at the 11:11 mark. It capped a 63-yard drive in nine plays, including a 19-yard run by Ramsey and Udinski’s 12-yard pass to Herres. A conversion run failed.
Western took the lead for good at 20-19 after Pletz kicked a 41-yard field goal with 5:22 on the clock. Young had a 21-yard run, and Adams gained 14 and had an 11-yard pass to -Thorpe to set up the kick.
Ramsey fumbled three plays after the kickoff with Jayden Pauling recovering at the VMI 38.
The threat ended when Nate Mullen’s pass was intercepted by A.J. Smith in the end zone on a trick play.
The Keydets got in position for Clemons to attempt a 41-yard field goal, which was wide left as the half ended.
The Cats opened the second half with a 63-yard drive in nine plays. Spencer had a run of 24 yards, and Mullen gained 11. Adams completed a 21-yard pass to Owen Cosenke. Spencer scored from a yard out extending the margin to 27-19 with 10:22 to play in the third period.
Udinski completed a 12-yard pass to Michael Jackson, and Ramsey had a 13-yard run before Clemons kicked a 30-yard field goal cutting the gap to 27-22 with 3:20 to go in the third quarter.
WCU was forced to punt, but Christoper Owens fumbled the kick with Thorpe recovering at the VMI 41.
Adams completed a 19-yard pass to Mullen and the drive reached the 2 following a pass interference penalty. After losing yardage, the Cats settled for Pletz’s 26-yard field goal and a 30-22 margin with 14:15 left in the game.
A Keydet threat ended when John Brannon picked off Udinski’s pass at the 9.
Western covered the 91 yards in six plays. Adams completed passes of 32 yards to Spencer and 15 yards to Patten. Spencer broke loose on a 42-yard scoring run for a 37-22 advantage at the 8:06 mark.
VMI narrowed the deficit to 37-29 with 6:39 on the clock after a 10-yard pass to Udinski to Herres and Clemons’ PAT. The 70-yard drive took six plays, including a 50-yard pass from Udinski to Lara.
Michael Murphy led WCU with 11 tackles. Trevor Childers and Ty Harris both had 10.
Elliott Brewster and Jarrod Richmond had 12 apiece for the Keydets.