College Football: Catawba-Carson-Newman preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
It’s strange seeing Catawba at the bottom of the South Atlantic Conference standings.
But that’s exactly where the Indians (0-2, 3-2) are situated going into today’s road game at perennial SAC power Carson-Newman.
Game-time is 3 p.m. in Jefferson City, Tenn. It’s Carson-Newman’s homecoming.
“We’re coming off two losses so it’s not a good place to be right now,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “Our guys have to find a way to dig deep.”
It has been a confusing 14 days for Catawba fans. The Indians were nationally ranked after three weeks of beating up on CIAA foes and the defensive line was being lauded.
But in consecutive league losses to Mars Hill and Newberry ó both at home ó that same defensive line has given up two 200-yard-plus rushing games.
“It’s hard to explain,” Hester said. “It’s something we’re trying to fix.
“We’ve played two really good football teams that are good up front with good running backs. But the simple truth is, until you tackle better, you’re not going to be better. There’s nothing you can do on the chalkboard. You’ve got to wrap up.”
The offensive line needs to build some confidence as well. Quarterback Cam Sexton was sacked seven times against Newberry.
“We’re trying to block better and tackle better,” Hester said. “It’s a matter of going back to fundamentals.”
With that said, today’s game will be quite a challenge for Catawba. They face an Eagles team (2-0, 4-2) that is on a four-game winning streak. It is ranked 23rd nationally.
Carson-Newman plays that vaunted split-back veer, led by Buck Wakefield, who had a 160-yard day last week in a rout of Mars Hill.
Winning in Burke-Tarr Stadium has always been difficult for the Indians ó and everyone else in the SAC. Carson-Newman leads the series with Catawba 32-9-1.
“The reason it’s a tough place to play is because of the players who play on it,” Hester said. “Carson-Newman continues to be one of the best in the nation.”
This rivalry has to be one of the best in the nation, too. The last three games have been decided by 15 points, including a 55-49 Catawba win in 2007 that ruined an Eagle homecoming.
“This game has a lot of history,” Hester said, noting the 2007 C-N loss was its only defeat of the season. “We’ve still got some players who experienced a win on that turf.
“At this point, we just need to find a way to play better. That was our focus all week.”