College Football: Carson-Newman 21, Catawba 14
By Mike London
Catawba senior Jamelle Cuthbertson unofficially set a world record for breaking tackles and was determined to break one more as he struggled with Carson-Newman’s Mario Russell after a long gain.
Then suddenly, the ball was poked loose by Otis Ballard and Corey Parks made a fumble recovery that spurred the Eagles to a 21-14 victory over the Indians at Shuford Stadium on Saturday.
Cuthbertson’s fumble occurred with Catawba threatening to break a 14-14 deadlock in the fourth quarter. Instead, Carson-Newman used momentum from the turnover to launch a game-winning drive that was completed by Alex Good’s 29-yard TD pass to Otis Miller with 43 seconds left.
“I had a stalemate with the guy trying to tackle me,” Cuthbertson said. “Then somebody hit the back of my arm. It’s frustrating because our defense did all we could’ve asked it to do.”
Catawba’s defense, with linebacker Charles McAfee making 12 tackles and lineman Brandon Sutton getting 10, dominated for 53 minutes, but Carson-Newman quarterback Alex Good took charge during the final seven.
“Catawba played us very tough,” Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks said. “It’s a shame either team had to lose this one. Great game.”
Cuthbertson was phenomenal, rushing for 125 yards and catching four passes for 61 yards. He did a lot of his damage through sheer tackle-shredding willpower.
“Cutty ran his legs off for us,” Catawba quarterback Patrick Dennis said. “He broke so many tackles, and he’s the reason we had a chance to win. We didn’t lose by any lack of effort. It’s just those last seven minutes things didn’t fall our way.”
Catawba (3-3, 1-2) was outscored 14-0 in the final 6:41.
“We felt like we had this one in our grasp,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “But it’s part of life, and we’ll learn from it.”
Catawba special teams had a solid day, and former East Rowan standout Aaron Cauble crashed through to block a punt with 2:34 left in the first quarter. Tyon Bennett fielded a friendly hop at the Carson-Newman 15 and romped into the end zone to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Carson-Newman (4-2, 2-1) mustered zero offense until Good broke a 42-yard run with five minutes left in the second quarter. The stocky Good then capped an 80-yard drive with a 5-yard keeper, carrying tacklers into the end zone for a 7-7 tie at halftime.
With a broken finger on his non-throwing hand knocking out starting QB Howard Williamson, Catawba turned to Dennis, and he connected with Gerron Bryant for a 34-yard touchdown in the third quarter for a 14-7 lead. Bryant made a great grab as he was draped by a corner and a safety.”We had Gerron one-on-one but the safety almost got over there at the last second,” Dennis said. “Just awesome concentration by Gerron. He made me look good.”
Catawba nursed that lead the rest of the third quarter and half of the fourth.
But the Indians were pinned at their own 15 by a good punt, got hurt by an illegal procedure penalty and couldn’t make a first down. Thomas Trexler punted to midfield, and the Eagles went to work with 7:12 left to play.
Good immediately broke a 40-yard sprint down the sideline, and Buck Wakefield scored on a 10-yard burst up the middle to tie the game at 14-all with 6:41 remaining.
Dennis completed a big pass play to tight end Grayson Downs, but it was wiped out by a penalty.
Dennis then hit Cuthbertson for a 19-yard gain to the Catawba 41. Cuthbertson broke a sweet run on the next play and was still fighting for yardage at the Carson-Newman 40 when he fumbled with 4:29 left.
The Eagles, ranked 21st, then drove for the winning score, while draining the clock. Good converted a fourth-and-1, spinning through linebacker Lakeem Perry for a critical first down. He hit Miller for the winning touchdown two plays later, fooling the Indians with a pass on second-and-3 from the Catawba 29.””We rolled the dice on the touchdown,” Sparks said. “You’re a great coach or a sorry coach, and Alex made the play for us.”
Dennis directed Catawba into Carson-Newman territory, but the time was too short and the distance too great.
“We did so many good things and we accomplished our goal of making it a fourth-quarter game,” Hester said. “A great football team just made a couple more plays than we did.”