By Carey Phillips

 

Western Carolina jumped to a 21-0 lead Saturday and also scored the final 17 points of the game to end the football season with a 52-24 Southern Conference win before 5,000 fans at Virginia Military’s Foster Stadium.

The Catamounts (4-7, 4-4) finished tied with Furman and VMI for fourth place in the conference. They ended Kerwin Bell’s first season as coach with wins in four of their final five games after opening the year 0-6.

WCU quarterback Rogan Wells accounted for 485 yards of total offense. He completed 31 of 52 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns and carried 15 times for 84 yards.

T.J. Jones rushed for 75 yards in 11 attempts.

Calvin Jones caught 11 passes for 188 yards.

VMI’s Seth Morgan completed 23 of 47 passes for 205 yards and two TDs but was intercepted three times. Aidan Twombly had eight receptions for 88 yards.

Rashad Raymond led the Keydets in rushing with 105 yards in 19 carries.

Western scored on its first possession as a 6-yard pass from Wells to Owen Cosenke and the first of Richard McCollum’s seven extra points made it 7-0 with 12:25 to play in the first quarter.

A 71-yard punt return by Daquan Patton upped the margin to 14-0 with 11:02 on the clock.

A 43-yard run by T.J. Jones on the first play after a punt set the stage for Kenny Benjamin’s 5-yard TD run building the lead to 21-0 at the 6:55 mark.

VMI got on the board with 4:37 remaining in the first period on a 39-yard pass from Morgan to Leroy Thomas. Jerry Rice kicked the first of his three extra points cutting the gap to 21-7.

Following a punt, Morgan completed consecutive passes to Twombly for 16 and 12 yards, the latter for a TD, narrowing the deficit to 21-14 with 45 seconds on the clock.

The Keydets forced another punt and drove 55 yards in eight plays for a 21-21 tie on Hunter Rice’s 2-yard run with 11:27 left in the half.

The Cats marched 75 yards in 14 plays to take the lead for good at 28-21 as T.J. Jones went in from a yard out with 6:40 on the clock. Highlights included Wells’ 32-yard run and his 17-yard pass to Terrence Horne.

Western’s Ivan Hogans and Cameron McCutcheon intercepted long passes by Morgan near the end zone on VMI’s final two possessions of the half.

The Cats had a threat end early in the second half when Stone Snyder recovered a fumble at the 2 after a 9-yard pass from Wells.

On the first play after a punt, Wells hit Calvin Jones for 59 yards for a 35-21 lead with 7:36 to go in the third quarter.

Jerry Rice’s 28-yard field goal left VMI down 35-24 with 14:51 to play in the game.

The Keydets got the ball back when Ethan Caselberry recovered a fumble by Patten at the VMI 20.

Moments later, Ivan Hogans picked off Morgan’s pass at the WCU 49. After a pass interference penalty, Wells found Raphael Williams for a 30-yard TD making it 42-24 at the 10:42 mark.

After the Keydets were stopped on downs, McCollum kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 45-24 lead with 6:33 on the clock.

McCutcheon recovered Twombly’s fumble at the VMI 48. That led to the game’s final TD, a 3-yard pass from Wells to Patten, on fourth down with 30 seconds to play.

Kareem Taylor led the Western defense with 11 tackles.

Caselberry and Josh Knapp were in on 15 and 11 tackles, respectively, for the Keydets.

WCU           VMI

28  First Downs  24

36-217  Rushes-Yds.  37-223

31-52-0  Passing  23-47-3

401  Passing Yds.  205

6-34  Punts-Avg.  6-36.8

2-2  Fumbles-Lost  1-1

8-122  Penalties-Yds.  4-37

WCU  21 7 7 17    52

VMI  14 7 0 3      24