Two Catamounts matched or established school offensive single-game records on Saturday night, but it was not enough to eclipse the debut of South Florida running back Marlon Mack. The true freshman tailback rushed for 275 yards and four touchdowns as the Bulls came
from behind to fend off upset-minded Western Carolina, 36-31, in the season-opener for both squads at Raymond James Stadium.
Junior quarterback Troy Mitchell set a WCU single-game record with a career-high 46 pass completions on a school-benchmark 66 pass attempts in the season-opener. The Houston, Texas, product tossed a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for a third score, amassing a career-high 374 yards passing - tied for the ninth-best, single-game performance.
On the receiving end of 27 of Mitchell's completions was sophomore receivers Terryon Robinson and Willie Police. Robinson matched a 30-year old school single-game record with a career-best 15 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown as eight Catamounts recorded receptions. Police had 12 catches for 86 yards with redshirt sophomore Spearman Robinson catching eight passes for 69 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown for the Purple & Gold.
"I was proud of our effort tonight," said third-year head coach Mark Speir during post-game comments with the Catamount Sports Network. "I told the team that they fought hard, I was proud of way they fought for 60 minutes."
The Catamounts led much of the night, pulling out to a 14-3 first quarter lead and carried a one-point, 17-16, edge into the halftime locker room. The lead remained intact until the waning moments of the third quarter when Mack struck from 60 yards out to give USF a 23-17 advantage.
All told, Mack scored three touchdowns of 56-or-more yards including runs of 62, 60 and 56 yards, respectively. He matched USF's school single-game rushing record.
Catamount junior tailback Darius Ramsey amassed 111all-purpose yards including a team-high 58 yards on the ground and four catches for 53 yards through the air. His first quarter-ending, two-yard plunge put WCU ahead, 14-3, through 15 minutes of play.
USF's Marvin Kloss split the uprights on his second and third field goals of the evening from 33 and 26 yards out in the second quarter with WCU's Richard Sigmon punching through a 33-yarder to provide the halftime score, 17-16.
Mack then closed the third and opened the fourth quarters with scores to push the deficit to 13, 30-17.
Western Carolina pulled back to within one score on a six-yard Spearman Robinson touchdown reception to cap an impressive 17-play drive only to see Mack rattle off his third rushing TD of the year to stretch the score to 36-24. The Catamounts answered with Terryon Robinson's 14-yard grab, but the ensuing on-side kick failed to provide the finally tally, 36-31.
Defensively for WCU, sophomore linebacker Tyson Dickson led the way with six tackles including four solo stops and half a tackle for loss while Damian Whitaker and Christon Gill chipped in five stops apiece - each recording a pass break-up. Senior Ace Clark came up with the season's first takeaway with a first quarter interception with Daniel Nash pouncing on a fumble and Avery Worsham coming away with the on-side kick recovery.
Western Carolina opens the home portion of its 2014 season with the first of back-to-back home games when it hosts Brevard next Saturday, Sept. 6 at 3:30 pm at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field. The first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive a "Prove Your Purple" t-shirt, courtesy of Ingles.
Photo Courtesy: Mark Speir, PHOTO SUBMITTED