By Carey Phillips
Nate Mullen scored from a yard out in overtime Saturday giving Western Carolina a 23-20 Southern Conference football victory over East Tennessee before 7,681 fans at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field.
The Catamounts (3-7, 2-5) won their second straight league game after dropping 12 in a row.
WCU’s Donnavan Spencer carried 19 times for 124 yards and caught three passes for 47 yards.
Tyrie Adams completed 16 of 25 passes for 185 yards. He carried eight times for 77 yards.
ETSU’s Quay Homes rushed for 166 yards in 36 attempts.
Tyler Riddell completed eight of 14 passes for 59 yards, and Trey Mitchell was four of eight for 30 yards.
Anthony Spagnoletti had six receptions for 78 yards.
The Buccaneers had the ball first in OT but were unable to move. They settled for Tyler Keltner’s 42-yard field goal and a 20-17 lead.
Western picked up a couple of first downs, including a 13-yard pass from Adams to Caleb Ferguson, before Mullen’s game-winning score on second down.
The Cats had a chance to win in regulation, but Julian Pletz missed a 31-yard field goal on the final play.
ETSU pulled into a 17-17 with 1:31 left in the game on Holmes’ five-yard run and Keltner’s PAT. The 14-play drive covered 64 yards, including a 12-yard run by Holmes.
Leading 10-3, WCU turned the ball over on the first play of the second half. Spencer caught a 35-yard pass from Adams, but he fumbled with M.J. Woods recovering at the ETSU 34.
Both teams punted on their next two possessions before the Bucs drove 57 yards in nine plays to even the score. Holmes had runs of 11 and 17 yards. He scored on a 4-yard run for a 10-10 tie after Keltner’s PAT with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Western’s next possession ended at its 47 when Spencer was stopped for no gain on fourth down.
The Cats forced a punt and drove 86 yards in 10 plays. Highlights were Adams’ 31-yard run and a 12-yard gain by Spencer. Ferguson caught a shovel pass from Adams that turned into a 22-yard TD. Pletz added the extra point for a 17-10 advantage with 8:03 to go in the game.
The teams traded field goals in the first quarter.
WCU went up 3-0 on Pletz’s 39-yarder with 8:09 on the clock. A 27-yard pass from Adams to D.J. Thorpe helped set up the kick.
Keltner’s 22-yarder tied it 3-3 at the 1:09 mark. It came after runs of 10 and 18 yards by Holmes.
Western took a 10-3 lead on Spencer’s 44-yard run and Pletz’s PAT with 13:19 to go in the half. Adams completed an 11-yard pass to Jaylin Young and had an 18-yard run in the six-play, 73-yard drive.
A bad snap on a punt put the Cats in business at the 30, but Pletz missed a 44-yard field goal.
ETSU threatened after a 44-yard pass from Riddell to Spagnoletti, but Keltner missed a 30-yard field goal.
Western’s JerMichael White recovered Riddell’s fumble at the Buc 32. However, an offensive pass interference penalty took the Cats out of field goal range.
WCU’s Ty Harris, who was named Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week, was in on 11 tackles, including eight solos and four for losses. White also had a hand in 11 tackles, followed by Trevor Childers with 10.
ETSU’s Artevius Smith and Blake Bockrath had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.