On Saturday, Nov. 11, Western Carolina University’s football team lost to Mercer University, 33-35. This gave Western Carolina a record of 7-4 (5-3 in conference play) and upped Mercer to a 5-5 record (4-4 in conference play).
Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Tyrie Adams was named Southern Conference (SoCon) Offensive Player of the Week despite the loss. Adams completed 35 of 47 passes for 378 yards, a season high. Adams also led the team in rushing yards, gaining 75 yards on 15 attempts.
Western Carolina controlled the game in many statistical categories. The Catamounts put up 507 yards of total offense in a game that saw very little defense from either team. Although the Catamounts scored first, Mercer put on a show in the first half. The Mercer Bears put up 14 points in both the first and second quarters, taking a 28-20 lead into halftime that would prove to be too much for the Catamounts.
Coming into the game with a losing record, the Bears knew it would take something special to beat a strong Catamount team. In the second quarter, Mercer coach Bobby Lamb dialed up just the right play call. Having finally stopped the Mercer offense, the Catamounts were prepared to allow the Bears a field goal. Lamb had other ideas; Mercer faked the field goal and flicked a pass to Alex Lakes, who ran 24 yards for the touchdown.
The Catamounts were caught off-guard by the bold play call and this play set the tone for the Bears’ victory. Twice in the second half the Catamounts came within two points of tying the game, but they never managed to overcome Mercer’s stellar first half.
After drawing within two points with the final touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, Western Carolina chose not to onside kick. This decision to give the ball back to Mercer proved fatal, as the Bears expertly ran down the clock with one final drive. The Catamounts used their last two timeouts in an effort to stop the clock as well as Mercer’s offense, but the Bears proved to be too strong.
Western Carolina led Mercer in nearly all categories aside from the final score. The Catamounts played a disciplined game: only committing five penalties for 29 yards. They were effective on third downs, converting 9 of their 14 attempts. They edged Mercer in time of possession. The game came down to a few good plays made by Mercer, and a too-little-too-late comeback attempt by Western Carolina.
Unfortunately, this conference loss knocked the Catamounts out of postseason contention. In spite of a resurgent year, the Catamounts were not invited to a bowl game. Even with this, the Catamounts won five conference games and finished the regular season in fourth place in the Southern Conference. They wrapped up their season with a trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a game that ended 65-10 in Chapel Hill’s favor.
This game marked the end of a phenomenal Catamount career for senior running back Detrez Newsome. Newsome played all four years at Western Carolina, amassing over 3,700 rushing yards. He averaged over 80 rushing yards per game in his time as a Catamount, and six yards per carry. The emergence of star quarterback Tyrie Adams is directly correlated to the strong running of Newsome, who shaped the Catamount offense with 46 touchdowns during his four years at the university. Having such a dominant running game to rely on, Adams was given the security to truly flourish in Western Carolina’s system.
Last season was Newsome’s most impressive, as he averaged a nation-leading 213 yards per game. His committed years at Western Carolina have seen him noticed on an NFL level, and Catamount Nation will be anxious to hear if he is drafted in April.
The Catamounts will miss Newsome’s influence, but they are confident in the ability of their dual threat quarterback Tyrie Adams and their rising seniors to carry on the momentum from this season. With a drastic improvement from last year’s record of 2-9, the Catamounts aim to keep the trend of improvement rolling next year.
Stay up to date with the Catamount’s offseason and keep an eye out for the annual spring game at www.catamountsports.com.