Tornados fall to Western Carolina 45-21 in season opener

Box Score

CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Brevard used a Tanner Wright five-yard touchdown scamper to trim Western Carolina’s advantage to just seven points late in the third quarter, but 17 unanswered Catamount points over the final 18 minutes of the contest sealed a 45-21 win for Western Carolina.

Tiny Brevard, which has approximately 9.600 fewer students than Division I Western Carolina, put up a determined fight against the homestanding Catamounts, quieting the E.J. Whitmire Stadium crowd of 8.929 with an 18-play, 78-yard drive that took over 11 minutes to start the second half to trim the deficit to 28-21.

The Tornados continually rattled off runs for medium gains during the lengthy drive, never moving more than ten yards at a time. The drive appeared to stall at the Western Carolina 20-yard line as a 37-yard field goal attempt was pushed wide left. But Western Carolina was flagged for leaping, giving Brevard a first down at the 10-yard line. Tanner Wright scored from five yards out two plays later to pull the Tornados to within a score.

But the Catamounts answered swiftly on the ensuing drive. After a four-yard rush by quarterback Troy Mitchell, Darius Ramsey scampered for 38 yards before Detrez Newsome scored from 33 yards out, making the score 35-21 just 1:02 later.

A similar sequence also played out near the end of the first half. The Tornados had a drive stall out at their own 38-yard line after Kelvin Jeter was dropped for no gain on 3rd and 4. But punter Garrett Nestor took the snap and sprinted to the far sideline, picking up seven yards to give Brevard a fresh set of downs. Tanner Wright then rushed for 51 yards up the middle before Jordan Ollis scored from four yards out, cutting Western Carolina’s lead to a touchdown in a stunning turn of events.

Western Carolina’s offense ensured that the enthusiasm on the Brevard sideline was short-lived, however, embarking on a 75-yard scoring drive of their own that took seven plays and ran just 1:59 off the clock to push its lead to two scores before the half.

The Catamounts were led by Mitchell, who threw just two incompletions on his 15 attempts for the day and accounted for 142 yards through the air. Ramsey rushed for 88 yards and three scores, while Newsome also had 88 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. Mitchell chipped in 84 yards rushing to complement his stellar passing day.

Ollis paced the Tornados’ offense, gaining 105 yards on the ground and rushing for a score. Wright finished with a pair of scores and 99 rushing yards.

The Catamounts opened the game with a methodical 11-play, 64-yard march on thir opening possession that gave Western Carolina a 7-0 lead with 10:07 remaining in the first quarter. The key play came on a third down inside the red zone. Mitchell escaped three would-be tacklers on a 3rd down and 4 play from the Brevard eight-yard line and found Darius Ramsey for a seven-yard pickup. Ramsey would score from a yard out on the next play to cap off the drive.

Ramsey punctuated the Catamounts’ second drive in the same fashion, this time scoring from five yards out to cap a six-play, 73-yard drive that came after the Western Carolina defense forced a three-and-out from the Tornados on their first possession.

But the Tornados answered with a methodical drive of their own, marching 79 yards to pull within a touchdown at 14-7. Tanner Wright scored on a three-yard rush on the 12th play of the drive, converting a 3rd and two from the Catamounts’ three. Jordan Ollis carried the load on the drive, rushing seven times for 57 yards, including two rushes of over ten yards.

The Tornados dominated the game’s time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes as the Brevard offense mounted several lengthy drives. Brevard was only outgained by five yards on the ground as the Tornados’ rushing attack racked up 278 yards, but Western Carolina mixed in a potent passing attack to total 425 yards for the game.

Senior linebacker Michael Gruber led the Tornados with 10 tackles, giving him 289 for his career. He needs six tackles to break Brevard’s all-time tackles record, currently held by Prince Simunyu.

Brevard will travel to Lynchburg, Virginia next Saturday to play its second consecutive game against an NCAA Division I opponent. Kickoff between Brevard and Liberty is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The game will be streamed for free on the online Big South Network, as well as online on ESPN3 and over-the-air on the Liberty Flames Sports Network.

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