Looking to bounce back from a 6-7 season in 2010, the Tech football team faced off against the Western Carolina Catamounts on Sept. 1 to kick off the 2011 season. On the Thursday night home game, the Jackets defeated the Western Carolina Catamounts in their first game of the season, 63-21.
The Jackets accumulated 662 total yards of offense — the first time Tech has gained more than 600 yards since 2000. Of those yards, 365 yards were due to passing, with 11 of 16 pass attempts completed. The defense was able to limit the Catamounts to 301 yards and forced three turnovers, two fumbles and one interception.
While Tech was able to rack up yardage on offense, the team fumbled the ball six times over the course of the game, losing possession twice.
“We made balls on the ground too many times, […] but there were some positives, especially [junior receiver] Stephen Hill,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
To kick off the game, Tech won the toss, but deferred and WCU elected to receive the ball. Sophomore kicker Justin Moore kicked the ball to the Western Carolina nine yard line, where it was caught by wide receiver George Richardson, with his knee down. The Catamounts made two rushing plays for a total gain of one yard before redshirt sophomore linebacker Brandon Watts forced a fumble on the third down, which was recovered by redshirt freshman linebacker Quayshawn Nealy at the WCU five yard line.
Tech’s first drive needed only one play, with junior A-back Orwin Smith carrying the ball into the end zone with 13:42 remaining in the first quarter.
The Jackets remained dominant through the rest of the first quarter. After a punt to the Tech five yard line by WCU, redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington completed a pass to Hill for an 82-yard touchdown, the sixth longest in Tech history.
The Jackets forced two more punts, and were able to score two more touchdowns before the end of the quarter to bring the score to 28-0. The first of the two was on a 77-yard rush by Smith and the second on a seven yard rush by redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days.
The Catamounts were able to put a dent in the Jacket’s lead during the second quarter. It began on a fourth and 13 punt by WCU to the Tech 6-yard line, where sophomore defensive end Euclid Cummings tried to recover the ball but fumbled it. The fumble was recovered by Western Carolina at the Tech four yard line. On the next play, Tech was penalized for an illegal substitution bringing WCU to first and goal on the Tech two yard line, which resulted in the Catamounts scoring on a two yard rushing play.
On the next drive, the Jackets fumbled the ball again, but were able to recover it for a loss of 14 yards. The drive resulted in a punt return for the Catamounts to their own 26-yard line, but the drive by the Catamounts ended when the Jackets forced a fumble and were able to complete a series of rushing plays for a touchdown.
The Catamounts answered with a long chain of successful passing plays, ending with a four yard rushing touchdown. On the next Tech drive, Washington completed three passes for a total gain of 60 yards and a touchdown.
A five yard delay of game penaly on Western Carolina brought the Catamounts to a halt at the WCU 35-yard line.
With only 35 seconds remaining on the clock, the Jackets were able to bring the ball 42 yards to the WCU 29-yard line. One second remained in the half, and the Jackets lined up for the field goal attempt. After two consecutive time-outs by the Catamounts, Moore’s kick was blocked and returned 69 yards by Western Carolina for a touchdown. The score heading into halftime was 42-21, with the Catamounts outscoring the Jackets in the second quarter 21-14.
During the second half, the Jackets were able to shut down the Catamount’s offense while still successfully making scoring plays. On the first drive after kickoff, the Jackets completed a series of rushing plays, ending with senior B-back Preston Lyons breaking several tackles and carrying the ball 20 yards for a touchdown.
Tech was able to force a turnover on downs on the next drive, but failed to bring the ball all the way to the endzone. The Jackets’ defense forced a punt by the Catamounts, and Tech called for a fair catch at the Tech 19-yard line.
After a rush for four yards by freshman B-back Charles Perkins, Washington completed a pass to Hill for 77 yards and a touchdown to bring the score to 56-21.
On WCU’s next drive, redshirt senior corner back Michael Peterson made a tackle for a loss of nine yards on the play. After one incomplete pass and one pass for seven yards, the Catamounts punted the ball. Freshman punt returner Zach Laskey caught the ball on the Tech eight yard line and returned it 28 yards. An illegal block in the back penalty was enforced, so the Jackets started on the 26-yard line, and ended the third quarter with a rush of four yards.
To end a 15-play, 77-yard drive that lasted 7:35, redshirt freshman running back Deon Hill carried the ball five yards to score the final touchdown of the game and cap the score at 63-21.
The last drive by Tech ended with a turnover on downs when the Jackets failed to convert on a fourth and one rush. Tech turned the ball over with 53 seconds remaining on the clock. The Catamounts completed one rushing play for 33 yards to bring the ball to the Tech 34-yard line, but were unable to bring the ball all the way to the endzone before time ran out.
The Jackets will head to Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Sept. 10 to face off against the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State in their first road contest of the season. The Jackets beat the Blue Raiders in 2010 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, 42-14.