College Football: Catawba notebook
By Mike London
The Catawba notebook …
SALISBURY — A long road trip to Tusculum awaits Catawba on Saturday afternoon, and the matchup with the throw-throw-and-throw-it-again Pioneers isn’t coming at the optimum time.
Tusculum quarterback Bo Cordell, an All-America candidate, has put the ball in the air 157 times in three games. He’s completed 107 of those aerials for 986 yards. That would be depressing news even if both of Catawba’s marquee DBs weren’t hurting.
Captain L.J. McCray is almost certainly out for Saturday’s game with a rib injury that coach Chip Hester said is “ like something you usually see in car accidents.”
While McCray got banged up in practice before the Coastal Carolina game, Jumal Rolle injured an ankle in Saturday’s painful 21-13 loss to Newberry in the home opener that sunk the Indians to 0-3 for the season and 0-1 in the SAC.
Hester said Rolle is “questionable” for Saturday.
THINK FLOYD: Fortunately, Catawba still has cornerback Scottie Floyd in one piece.
“He reads quarterbacks well and anticipates well,” Hester said. “He’s football savvy and made some awesome plays Saturday.”
Floyd was named the team’s defensive player of the week, mostly for a fine, leaping interception.
“Checking the receiver at the line I kinda knew they were coming my way,” Floyd said. “He made his little out cut and I saw his head turn and look, but I was able to get up in the air before he did.”
Scottie, a Gastonia native who is a nephew of former NBA guard Sleepy Floyd, is generously listed at 5-foot-10 in the Catawba program and was matched up with Newberry receivers as tall as 6-4.
“Not a big deal,” Floyd said. “There haven’t many football games I’ve played in my life where I’ve been the big guy. Playing DB isn’t about size, it’s about will and want-to.”
Floyd, who also made three tackles, admitted the Indians could use McCray and Rolle, but he’s taken several youngsters under his wing and has confidence in them.
“L.J. and Rolle are great,” he said. “But guys like Calvin Hunter and Tevin Carr are capable.”
McMEMORIES: McCray’s game against Tusculum last November was one for the ages.
He returned kickoffs for a national-record 304 yards and two TDs to partially offset a mammoth day by Cordell, who threw for 510 yards in the Pioneers’ 54-44 win.
“McCray is a playmaker, and he had a game that people will talk about for a long time,” Hester said.
Catawba entered last year’s Tusculum game ranked third in the region and with a good chance to win the SAC title, so that’s really the game that triggered the current spiral that the Indians have had a tough time shaking.
Catawba has lost five straight dating back to that game.
CRAIG’S LIST: Omar Craig, a former cornerback who is now working at running back, was named Catawba’s “special forces” player of the week.
Craig is a cousin of Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope.
“Omar is making his mark on special teams, and he’s on a lot of them,” Hester said. “He tackles very well and is good at playing in space.”
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Catawba quarterback Jacob Charest threw for 254 yards on Saturday, but the running game still hasn’t gotten untracked.
Catawba prides itself on being balanced offensively, but its rushing numbers are languishing at the bottom of the SAC, right next to those of Tusculum, which has little interest in running the ball.
“When all is said and done, we’ve got to do a better job running the football,” Hester said. “Our back (Josh Wright) is averaging 1.8 yards per carry. Josh has got to break some tackles, but it’s everybody. It’s a team issue blocking-wise, and I’ve got to call the right run plays at the right times.”
GROUND BEEF: Catawba leads the SAC in rushing defense — by a lot — but its pass defense ranks only seventh in the league.
Catawba will have numerous chances to make plays against Tusculum’s passing game. Cordell has been sacked eight times and has thrown five picks.