Turnovers lead to doom for Indians

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2014

CULLOWHEE, N.C. — A fumble a yard from the end zone and a false start call were the two biggest plays in Catawba’s 35-17 loss at Western Carolina on Saturday.
Catawba had more total yards, more time of possession and ran 15 more plays than the Catamounts at Whitmire Stadium, but the Indians (1-1) couldn’t overcome four turnovers.
With Catawba trailing 14-7, Catawba quarterback Mike Sheehan completed a third-and-10 pass to tight end Tyler Hamilton 48 seconds before halftime, but Hamilton was hit by Western Carolina’s Bryson Jordan as he fought to get in the end zone, and Sertonuse Harris recovered for the Catamounts (2-1) at the Western Carolina 2.
“Tyler was trying to make a play, and we were so close from going in to halftime tied 14-14,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said.
Catawba took the second-half kickoff and drove from its 19-yard line to the Western Carolina 18. On fourth-and-1, the Indians believed they’d gotten Western Carolina to jump offsides. A flag flew, but the call went against Catawba for a false start. After the penalty was assessed, Chad Hollandsworth kicked a 39-yard field goal to bring the Indians within 14-10, but that was as close as they got the rest of the way.
Western Carolina was bigger and deeper and eventually the Catamounts pulled away.
“You’d like to take away the fumble at the 1 and that penalty on fourth-and-1 and see what happens,” Walker said. “I think it would’ve been a very close game.”
Sheehan threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His 20-yard pass to Gary Williams got Catawba on the board in the second quarter after the Indians had fallen behind 14-0. Sheehan also connected on a 5-yard scoring play with Carlos Tarrats in the fourth quarter.
The bad news for Sheehan, who was close to perfect in Catawba’s opener, was two interceptions. He also was sacked twice.
Catawba rushed for 102 yards, with David Burgess netting 52. Williams had seven catches for 94 yards.
Penalties hurt the Indians. They were tagged with 119 yards for 13 flags. Western Carolina got six first downs via penalty.
Defensively, safety Philip George led the Indians with nine stops. Linebacker Jamal Lackey had eight.
Troy Mitchell threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns to spark the Catamounts.
Walker, who served as defensive coordinator for Western Carolina in 2012, said the Catamounts have improved quite a bit in two years.
“Western was very young when I was there, playing a lot freshman,” Walker said. “Those young men are juniors now, and they showed today they’ve learned to finish off ballgames for coach (Mark) Speir.”
The Indians will work on correcting the turnovers and penalties this week. They go to Newberry next Saturday at 6 p.m. to start South Atlantic Conference play.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Walker said. “We played our guts out today.”