By Carey Phillips
Kurt Everett kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired Saturday giving Gardner-Webb a 24-21 non-conference football victory over Western Carolina before a disappointed crowd of 11,865 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field.
The Bulldogs took over at their 30 with 4:24 remaining following a punt. They drove to the WCU 16 in 16 plays. Kalen Whitlow completed a 4-yard pass to James Ellis to the 27 on fourth-and-4. Jayln Cagle had a 14-yard run on the play prior to the kick.
Cagle finished with 138 yards in 20 carries.
Whitlow completed 14 of 23 passes for 194 yards. Chuma Awanna had five catches for 78 yards.
Tyrie Adams completed 16 of 22 passes for 138 yards for the Catamounts (1-4). He carried 18 times for 98 yards.
Connell Young had 69 rushing yards in 17 attempts. Donnavan Spencer added 55 yards in 19 carries.
Nate Mullen and D.J. Thorpe had four receptions for 57 and 41 yards, respectively.
After a 14-14 halftime tie, G-W took its first lead by driving 82 yards in six plays on its first possession of the second half. Whitlow opened the march with a 16-yard pass to A.J. Alexander and capped it with a 52-yard pass to Awanna. Everett kicked his third extra point for a 21-14 advantage with 8:46 to play in the third quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, WCU marched 97 yards in 12 plays to draw even. The drive was aided by a personal foul penalty and included a 35-yard run by Adams. An 8-yard run by Adams and the third PAT by Julian Pletz produced a 21-21 tie with 14:54 left in the game.
The Bulldogs looked like they would regain the lead as Whitlow hit Izaiah Gathings on a 33-yard pass to the 15. However, Gathings fumbled with John Brannon recovering at the 3.
The Cats were forced to punt, and Devron Harper’s 16-yard return put G-W in business at the 26. Cagle picked up 14 yards on fourth-and-1 for a first down at the 3. A goal-line stand kept the score tie as the Bulldogs went for it on fourth down from the 1 and lost 2 yards.
Western drove 93 yards in 18 plays on its first possession of the game. Highlights included runs of 12 and 13 yards by Adams. Young scored from the 3 for a 7-0 lead with 5:43 to go in the opening period.
Narii Gaither returned the kickoff 34 yards to his 45. Two plays later, Cagle ripped off a 46-yard scoring run for a 7-7 tie with 4:52 left in the first quarter.
The Cats countered with a 75-yard drive in 12 plays. Adams completed passes of 16 yards to Mullen and 21 yards to Thorpe. His 15-yard touchdown pass to Mullen gave WCU a 14-7 edge with 47 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Adams fumbled on WCU’s next possession with Tremayne Booker recovering at the G-W 48.
The Bulldogs gave the ball back moments later when Michael Murphy picked off Whitlow’s pass and had an 11-yard return to the 31. Murphy fumbled, but teammate Charles Gadie recovered at the 28.
Western went for it on fourth down from midfield, but Adams’ pass was incomplete.
Runs of 11 yards by Cagle and Whitlow, along with penalties for pass interference and face mask helped G-W move down field. Cagle’s 2-yard run ended the five-play drive for a 14-14 tie with 5:59 remaining in the half.
Murphy led the WCU defense with 12 tackles. Trevor Childers followed with 11, and JerMichael White had 10.
The Bulldogs’ Darien Reynolds was the game’s top tackler with 13. Devin Mines and Quinton Jones both had 10.