Western Carolina struggles in 63-21 defeat

Western Carolina struggles in 63-21 defeat

Published Sep. 2, 2011 1:44 a.m. ET

Western Carolina coach Dennis Watson was hoping for a better showing in the season opener.

Instead, Watson watched as his team failed to capitalize on six Georgia Tech fumbles and gave up nine touchdowns.

''It was disappointing on defense,'' he said. ''We couldn't slow them down. They wore us out. Offensively, I thought there were a lot of times we left plays on the field. We're going to have to improve a lot before next week.''

Orwin Smith scored two of Georgia Tech's four first-quarter touchdowns and Stephen Hill caught two touchdown passes from Tevin Washington in Western Carolina's 63-21 loss Thursday night.


The Catamounts' next game is Sept. 10 at home against Mars Hill. They play their first Southern Conference game on Sept. 24 at Georgia Southern.

''We just have to play faster, get better, look at the film on Monday and see where we can get better,'' Western Carolina running back Deja Alexander said.

Georgia Tech's yardage total was the second-highest in school history behind a 706-yard performance against The Citadel in 1948, but the Yellow Jackets struggled throughout the night to hold on to the football, losing two of six fumbles and allowing a second-quarter field goal attempt to get blocked and recovered for a touchdown.

Georgia Tech, facing an FCS opponent that dropped to 10-46 since the start of 2006, showed flashes of a formidable passing game after ranking 119th in the nation last year.

Washington completed eight of 13 passes for 271 yards and three TDs. No. 2 quarterback Synjyn Days was 3 of 3 passing for 94 yards. Hill caught four passes for 181 yards. The yardage totals were career highs for all three players.

Georgia Tech had more yards passing in the first quarter (148) than it had in any game last season (130 in an Oct. 2 win over Wake Forest).

The Yellow Jackets, who led the nation in rushing last year, racked up 260 yards on the ground. Smith finished with 84 yards, which included a 77-yard score, on just four carries.

Western Carolina scored three touchdowns in the second quarter but still trailed by 21 points at halftime.

''We made some adjustments,'' Catamounts quarterback Brandon Pechloff said after getting sacked three times and passing for 180 yards. ''We made good plays, but I made some bad decisions. Over time, we just have to get better. I think we will.''

Added Watson, ''We still had to overcome adversity and play hard in the second half, and I don't think we did that, especially in the second half. We didn't do nearly as well in the second half as we did in the first. That's a concern of ours, how we rally in the second half. We pride ourselves on our conditioning and the tempo that we run, but we were not an efficient operation on offense.''

With his team leading 28-0 near the end of the first quarter, Jackets B-back Charles Perkins lost a fumble that Western Carolina's Rainey Ala recovered at the Georgia Tech 31. The Catamounts went three-and-out, but Georgia Tech's Euclid Cummings fumbled away the ensuing punt return that Courtland Carson recovered at the Georgia Tech 4.

Pechloff's 2-yard run on the next play made it 28-7.

Washington made a poor pitch two plays later, but fell on his fumble for a 14-yard loss, and Georgia Tech punted.

After the Catamounts had a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Michael Vaughn's 4-yard run and cut the lead to 35-14 late in the second, Georgia Tech answered with Washington's 26-yard TD pass to Roddy Jones.

But following another three-and-out by Western Carolina, the Jackets allowed Ala to block a 45-yard field goal attempt that was recovered by Isaiah Moore and returned for a 69-yard score to make it 42-21 at halftime.