Catawba notebook: Blockers protect Dennis
By Bret Strelow
Daylon McAlexander, filling in for injured center Zane Gibson, suffered a stinger in Catawba’s loss at Carson-Newman.
With the Indians shorthanded, McAlexander tried so hard to remain in the lineup that he delivered one shotgun snap with his left hand. Gibson replaced McAlexander and participated in 20 plays.
With either McAlexander or Gibson at center, the offensive line performed admirably against the Eagles. Catawba attempted 53 passes and allowed two sacks.
Starting quarterback Cam Sexton left with an injury six minutes into the second quarter, and Patrick Dennis threw 37 passes. He was sacked once.
“I think this was the most (offensive) players we’ve had grade out this year, including our wins,” Dennis said. “We had a lot better execution up front with our offensive line.”
Gibson, who hadn’t played since injuring a knee against Livingstone on Sept. 12, should be able to start Saturday at Tusculum.
LOOKING AHEAD: Catawba (3-3) and Tusculum (1-5) are both 0-3 in SAC play. They’ll square off in Greeneville, Tenn., at 2 p.m.
The Pioneers are coming off a 27-24 overtime loss at Brevard.
“They’re in a very similar situation to us,” Dennis said. “They’ve got good players and don’t have the best record and are sharing a lot of the same frustrations we are, so they’re not going to give us anything. They’re going to be aggressive and make us earn every bit of it.”
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Dennis (311 passing yards) and Eric Morman (13 catches, 128 yards) were Catawba’s offensive players of the week.
“I feel confident in my abilities and know my limitations,” Dennis said. “I prepare to the best of my ability every week, and building on good games does help build confidence.”
Brandon Sutton, who blocked a field goal and an extra point, won special teams honors.
Melquan Fair (eight tackles, one QB hurry) won defensive honors.
“He played at a really high level,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said.
Hester also praised freshman linebacker Cory Johnson (team-high 10 tackles) and freshman cornerback L.J. McCray.
McCray intercepted a first-quarter pass intended for Reggie Hubbard.
“Once he had that pick, they didn’t mess with him anymore,” Hester said.
INJURY UPDATE: Senior linebacker Julian Samolu (ankle) is doubtful for Saturday’s game. He was injured when a Carson-Newman offensive lineman cut block him in the first quarter on a play that was immediately halted by a false start.
Hester said Sexton is day-to-day.
“Any time you’re dealing with a concussion, you just don’t know,” Hester said. “Everyone reacts differently, and we’ll see how it goes as the week goes.”
Catawba’s secondary is getting healthier. Jumal Rolle (foot), Kewone Harris (neck) and Terrence Jones (concussion) didn’t play at Carson-Newman.