The pass happy Yellow Jackets came out in their home opener against Western Carolina intent on not only improving on their 119th rated passing statistics from last season, but vaulted all the way up to # 1 after just one game by passing for 365 yards on only 11 completions. They also ran for a measly 297 yards in between those two 70+ yard plus touchdown throws. Now before anyone gets too excited given the competition; Western Carolina, it is important to note that the triple option offense creates single coverage match ups in the passing game, and it appears that so long as the Yellow Jackets catch the football we can be very productive on offense this season despite no 5 stars players.
So after linebacker Brandon Watts caused a fumble with a great hustle play from the backside, Orwin Smith walked into the end zone on a toss sweep to the right side with excellent blocking on the edge. Defensively in the first quarter Izaan Cross was making plays and looked very good as the entire D-line was playing very tough at the point of attack. Then came the play we were all waiting for; Stephen Hill catches a 5 yard hitch pass from Tevin and after a very nice stiff arm turns it into a 82 yard touchdown. Great effort Stephen and we are looking for more plays just like that the rest of the season. With the safeties cheating up to stop the run, once the receiver defeats the cornerback there is nothing but green grass between him and the end zone.
The O-line was blocking well up front and center Jay Finch was getting into linebackers on the second level and creating some running space up the middle. The 78 yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith was well blocked and the pitch by Tevin Washington a perfect read. Once Orwin cut back across the field his fluid stride had him gliding past the goal line for another touchdown and a 21 to 0 lead. The best part of this offensive display was watching the defense getting after folks as they were flying around and smacking folks for the first time in years. Rod Sweeting in particular was laying the wood to some receivers, and had a nice blitz in the backfield that resulted in a teammate making a TFL. Great effort on defense is what has been missing for quite some time, but it is great to see some hitting out there.
When Synjyn Days came into the game he threw a beautiful pass right on the money to Tyler Melton who took it 66 yards before getting tackled in the red zone. Days took it up the middle himself on the midline option for 7 yards and the score to make it 28 to 0. So while everything was working well, our first gaffe was a fumble by a B-Back not wrapping the ball after the mesh point. Then we had a flashback to Leon Lett and the Dallas Cowboys on a punt coverage. So we have some things to work on to say the least. However, the 63 points was nice to see regardless of the opponent!
Then we started to have some mental lapses starting with Tevin Washington pitching the ball awkwardly, but after bouncing around he was able to recover it. Some bad center/QB exchanges with backup Nick McRae were eliminated after a CPJ tongue lashing on the sidelines. It appeared that Jay Finch was given the rest of the night off and McRae played the balance of the game for experience should anything happen to Finch the remainder of the season. Smart move at a very critical position on the O-line. David Sims had a nice run up the middle for a 35 to 7 lead and the offensive line was really getting after folks all game long.
After a very nice pass completion to A-Back Embry Peeples, Tevin hit Roddy Jones for a touchdown and a 42 to 14 lead. Then after some more strong defensive play, disaster hit on a field goal attempt right before halftime. The Catamounts broke through the middle and blocked the kick, then hustled by picking up the football and ran it in for a touchdown with no time remaining on the clock. That was flat out awful special teams play to give up a score after the block. Let’s hope that we never see that again this season!
In the second half Tevin had a nice run after reversing his field, then Preston Lyons broke two tackle on his way to a 22 yard touchdown extending the lead to 49 to 21. Followed shortly thereafter by a nice throw and catch from Tevin to Stephen Hill for a 72 yard touchdown extending the lead to 56 to 21. True freshman Zack Laskey looked good catching punts and picked up a bouncer for a 28 yard gain. He also made some tackles on special teams.
I was most impressed with the tackling and hard hitting by the defense all game long. Jemea Thomas got flagged for a personal foul on a hit leading with his helmet, but the effort was outstanding with the entire defensive backfield. While I am mindful of the competition, we are doing what I expect in these games under CPJ and winning them in style, as opposed to 28 to 7 under the prior administration. I just saw that our next opponent and first road test; MTSU had a field goal blocked late in the game and fell to Purdue of the Big Ten 27 to 24. The Yellow Jackets better get ready for a very tough road game next Saturday.