College Football: Catawba 42, UNC Pembroke 33
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Josh Wright’s 64-yard sprint to the end zone with 8:36 remaining sealed Catawba’s 42-33 win against UNC Pembroke, and the springing block came from none other than quarterback Jacob Charest.
“We’ve talked about the importance of everybody blocking and tackling,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said with a grin. “But I wasn’t necessarily talking about our quarterback.”
Charest joked about being a “quarterback-slash-fullback,” but it really was a pivotal moment for the Indians, who have transformed from a team waiting for something bad to happen into a team making good things happen. The ball definitely bounced their way more often than not in a mild upset of the visiting Braves (3-2).
“Jacob makes that block, and you see all our linebackers running over to high-five him when he came off the field,” Hester said. “That was a very big play, not just as far as this game, but as far as our football team.”
Quarterbacks get too much credit or too much blame. Charest, a talented Illinois transfer, was an easy target for over-rated chants when Catawba (2-3) stood 0-3, but the Indians have located their running game the past two weeks, and that’s changed everything.
“Anytime we’ve been a good football team here, we’ve been able to mix the run and the pass,” Hester said.
Wright barreled for 180 yards on 28 carries and two TDs on a brisk Saturday night at Shuford Stadium.
“I think our offensive line has really gotten together now and our running backs were explosive tonight,” Charest said. “It’s made my job so much easier.”
Catawba’s defense, which carried a heavy workload the first four weeks, had its hands full with UNCP’s Travis Daniels (26 carries, 124 rushing yards) and QB Luke Charles (362 passing yards, four TDs), but Catawba’s offense had its best game. Faced with 18 third downs, it moved the chains 13 times.
Catawba answered an early UNC Pembroke field goal with a 10-yard TD pass from Charest to Omar Craig and took charge for good when Tyler Hamilton, a freshman receiver, made the biggest play of the game with 10:08 left in the second quarter. He flew over three stunned blockers to reject a UNC Pembroke punt, and Mario Washington scooped it at the UNCP 14 and scored.
“Knocked it down with both hands,” Hamilton said cheerfully.
That amazing special-teams play forced UNCP into catch-up mode.
Then Hamilton made it 21-3, soaring in the end zone to snag a touchdown pass on what appeared to be a broken play. Charest was scrambling desperately to his right when he pulled up and launched a 25-yard aerial to Hamilton.
“The first time I looked at Hamilton, I didn’t like the coverage I saw,” Charest said. “But I scrambled and looked again and decided I’d take a shot.”
The bouncy Hamilton sailed skyward, grabbed the ball and held on as gravity returned him to the end zone.
“I thought Jacob was just throwing it away at first, but I was able to go up and get it,” Hamilton said. “I was glad to make a play. Jacob hasn’t gotten enough credit for what he’s done for this team — on the field and off.”
Catawba’s defense had its best moment with a goal-line stand in the final minute of the half. Linebackers Lakeem Perry and Tra Ingram stopped Daniels at the 1-yard line on third down, and linebacker Cory Johnson, who already had recovered a fumble deep in Catawba territory, led a determined charge that denied Daniels on fourth-and-goal. Four Indians stopped him inches shy of the goal line.
“That fourth-down stop? I was just the first one to get there,” Johnson said. “Now that was Catawba football.”
Catawba’s defense got a quick stop to open the second half, and the Indians made it 28-3 with a 55-yard drive.
Catawba had lost cornerback Scottie Floyd with an injury early, but young DBs Tevin Carr (pick) and Tyrone Johnson (fumble recovery) came up with turnovers that helped the Indians maintain control in the second half.
UNCP found its offensive rhythm late, but it was all but decided when Wright broke his long run for a 35-9 lead.
“I had to run hard,” Wright said. “Guys broke their backs blocking for me tonight.”
Even the quarterback.
Summary in Scoreboard.