College Football: Catawba's McCollum out
By Mike London
The Catawba notebook ... SALISBURY - Wide receiver Payton McCollum had been one the of the feel-good stories of Catawba's early contests, but the Indians lost McCollum as well as a ballgame on Saturday at UNC Pembroke. The junior broke his lower leg while blocking, and his final numbers for the season will be 10 catches for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his TDs came against Livingstone and he also scored Catawba's first TD of the season at West Liberty. "You just hate it for Payton because he'd worked so hard to earn an opportunity and he was making the most of it," Catawba coach Chip Hester said. "It wasn't just the catches. He was a smart, tough player and he was doing a great job blocking for us." McCollum moved the chains for the last time in 2012 with a 13-yard catch on third-and-6 on Catawba's first possession on Saturday. McCollum is a very good athlete. The Indians (3-2) can replace him with even more spectacular athletes, but it remains to seen if they'll provide the same production. Redshirt freshman Joe Watson and true freshmen Gary Williams and Diante Hodges (who had a touchdown catch Saturday) will have expanded roles in Catawba's passing game. Nate Charest (32 catches, 366 yards) and Jarrid McKinney have been the top two targets for QB B.J. Sherrill. McKinney had 10 catches for 178 yards at UNCP
.•THROW IT AROUND: Catawba basically trampled Tusculum with Bobby Morrison and its ground attack on Sept. 22 and threw only a dozen times. A week later, Sherill put up one of the biggest passing games in school history against UNC Pembroke. He was 32-for-52 for 371 yards. The school records for attempts (66) and passing yards (492) were set by Luke Samples in a 41-36 loss at Carson-Newman in 2003. There were two factors in Sherrill, who was named Catawba's offensive player of the week, throwing early and often. First, Sherrill's sprained foot was much healthier than it had been in the Tusculum game. Second, Hester said the Indians had repeated opportunities for big plays in the passing game. "It's not like they were shutting our running game down, but we were getting one-on-one matchups with our receivers that we really liked," Hester said. Catawba had 32 rushing attempts for a net of 93 yards. Morrison had 67 yards, a week after rolling for 158.
•FESTIVITIES: Prior to Saturday afternoon's game with Carson-Newman, Catawba will retire the baseball jersey of Jerry Sands, who set slugging records at Catawba and has played in the big leagues with the L.A. Dodgers in recent years. At halftime, Catawba plans to honor the legends from the Gordon Kirkland-coached teams that won the 1946 and 1947 Tangerine Bowls. Eight of the 10 surviving members of those teams are expected to attend.
•FRUSTRATION: Catawba had twice as many first downs and won time of possession by a lot, but it still lost to UNCP 27-20. "We had more explosive plays than they did and we were much better converting third downs," Hester said. "But special teams weren't as good for us as they have been and the turnovers were a big factor." Catawba lost three fumbles and had a pass intercepted, while UNCP played turnover-free. "We knew we were the better team, but we just didn't put it all together," said Catawba defensive lineman Damein Lee. "We had parts here and parts there, but we never put all the parts together."
•HE ... COULD ... GO ... ALL ... THE ... WAY: Catawba's defense allowed 193 rushing yards, but that's misleading. The Indians generally stifled the run, but UNCP's Elliott Powell broke a 97-yard run in the opening seconds of the second half. "We just weren't in the right place at the right time," said Lee, Catawba's defensive player of the week. "A linebacker shot the gap and then we had one missed tackle, and he was gone. But other than that one play we played our style of football in the second half." Lee recorded Catawba's only sack against former A.L. Brown star Jonathan Efird, who was making his first start as UNCP's quarterback. "That sack was like taking candy from a baby - a big guy was blocking me, but his footwork wasn't very good," Lee said. "Mostly, though, their QB used a two-step drop and hit a quick slant. It wasn't easy to get pressure."
•SPECIAL TEAMS: Versatile Trey Mashore, who had seven returns for touchdowns in his career at West Rowan, is a key component of Catawba's special teams. He was named special teams player of the week, partly for a hit on the second-half kickoff that pinned UNCP deep. "I'm just doing my job, trying to be the first one down and my focus is on trying to keep them inside the 20," Mashore said. "It's hard for any team to go 80 yards without a penalty or a mistake." Mashore also is one of the kickoff returners for the Indians and returns punts. It'll be noteworthy if Mashore can take a punt to the house. Catawba hasn't returned a punt for a touchdown in a decade. Cedric Squirewell had the last one against Mars Hill in 2002. "We've got a lot of speed back there on returns," Mashore. "Our mindset is if they kick it to you, make them pay."
•KNOCK ON WOOD: You can make a safe bet that Catawba will score on Saturday. The Indians haven't been shut out since opening day in 1994.•HEAD EAGLE: Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks is battling cancer, but he will be at the helm of his team again on Saturday. Sparks has been head coach since 1980 and owns 301 career victories. "He's not only a great football coach, he's a great man," Hester said. "I have the utmost respect for him." Carson-Newman (2-2) has lost back-to-back to Newberry and Wingate, but Hester doesn't see any dropoff on film from the Eagles' glory years. They still have a fast QB, a huge run-stuffer in the interior line, and they still run the split-back veer offense. "Carson-Newman hasn't dropped off," Hester said. "They're still the same ol' Carson-Newman, but it's just not the same ol' SAC. The schools in our league keep getting better and more athletic, so Carson-Newman isn't as dominant."