Catawba notebook: Dennis a quick study
By Bret Strelow
The Catawba notebook …
Patrick Dennis again displayed his ability to step in on short notice.
Starting quarterback Cam Sexton suffered an ankle injury on the third play from scrimmage Saturday, and Dennis helped lead Catawba to a 21-20 win at Fayetteville State.
Dennis started four times last year and backed up Sexton, a North Carolina transfer, in a season-opening victory against St. Augustine’s.
“When it came out Cam was looking to transfer somewhere else, to a D-II school, the coaches told me they were going to be open-minded to that and see how it went,” Dennis said. “As a coaching staff, it’s their job to bring in the best players they can. If they felt like Cam was going to help us be a better team, that’s what they have to do.
“It’s a tough situation because I want to be the guy, but at the same time you have to do what’s best for the team, and Cam Sexton brings a lot of things to our program. I’m going to push him every day and be ready when my number’s called.”
Sexton is day-to-day with an ankle sprain, and 17th-ranked Catawba plays host to crosstown rival Livingstone on Saturday.
Dennis made his first collegiate start in a 49-7 rout of the Blue Bears last year and tied a school record with five touchdown passes ó all to different receivers.
He had spent the first two weeks as a backup to Howard Williamson, who arrived at Livingstone with an injured shoulder but warmed up with the intention of playing.
“I didn’t know I was going to start until about 10 minutes before the game,” Dennis said. “Howard had injured his shoulder the week before and was kind of day-to-day. Up to game time, they still hadn’t decided if he was going to start or I was going to start. I guess I didn’t have time to get nervous.”
Catawba trailed 10-7 at halftime against Fayetteville State, and Dennis threw two touchdown passes to Brandon Bunn in the third quarter.
Dennis finished 12 of 25 for 164 yards, including 107 in the second half.
“Throughout the whole summer we all talked about how much confidence we have in Patrick, and I think those sentiments were justified on Saturday,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “Our football team has confidence in him and our coaching staff has confidence in him.”
ONE-ON-BUNN: Bunn, who had a TD grab against St. Aug’s, led Catawba with three receptions for 61 yards against Fayetteville State.
His scores, which covered 27 and 25 yards, involved one-on-one coverage from an FSU safety. Dennis checked off to a different play prior to the second touchdown.
“When you see one-on-one and then you actually hear them check to the play, the adrenaline starts going a little more like, ‘I have to make this play,’ ” Bunn said.
Bunn, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior, has 12 touchdown receptions in his Catawba career. Half of them occurred last season.
“He reads defenses well and fills zones very well,” said Hester, who was a college receiver. “There’s an art to filling a window, and he’s great in man-to-man situations.
“He does a great job of making defensive backs think something else is coming. A lot of guys struggle with that because they kind of lean and go the other way. He sells routes, he’s very crisp and he catches the ball well. That’s that formula for a really good receiver.”
Bunn said Catawba’s receivers sometimes congregate in one player’s room after practice and watch film together.
“Now that I have another year under my belt, I know a lot more,” Bunn said. “When I go out on the field, I just see the field a lot more and can get a feel for what’s going to happen when the ball is snapped.”
AWARDS WATCH: Bunn (offense), Julian Hartsell (defense) and Marqus Davis (special teams) were Catawba’s weekly award winners.
Davis had a team-high nine tackles, including 2.5 sacks. He officially blocked one field goal and one punt, but he also got his fingertips on another punt.
“He’s really playing at a high level right now,” Hester said. “On our defensive line, we’ve got a great depth of guys that are playing well.”