College Football: Indians welcome winless Brevard
SALISBURY — In a football season with only four home games, Catawba fans have learned to savor each one. The Indians (4-3, 2-2 SAC) take on Brevard (0-7, 0-4) on Saturday, a team appearing to be the ideal homecoming opponent.
It’s been well documented the Indians haven’t had a back-to-back wins — or back-to-back losses for that matter — all season. They’ve alternated wins and losses since opening with a 35-7 victory at Davidson on Sept. 6 and losing at Western Carolina 35-17 seven days later.
Catawba hasn’t played its best football the past two weeks. That includes a turnover-filled loss at Wingate and a victory at UNC Pembroke in which the Indians experienced offensive struggles.
“Our offense was only on the field for three plays in the first quarter at Pembroke,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said. “I’m pleased with our defense, but we’ve underachieved in some other areas the past two weeks.”
Specifically, the Indians haven’t been physical enough.
“We’ve got to be able to run the football, and we haven’t run it very well the last two weeks,” he said. “The more aggressive, more physical team is going to win the football game, and that’s true even in my son’s YFL games.”
Brevard hasn’t had any trouble running the football. The Tornados rank fifth in Division II in rushing with an impressive 326 yards per game. Jordan Ollis, a 230-pound fullback, leads the SAC with 12 TDs and rushes for 124 yards per game. Slotback Kelvin Jeter is a former SAC Offensive Freshman of the Year and has put up 100-yard games this season against Carson-Newman and Wingate.
A Catawba defense led by linebacker Jason Taylor and cornerback Mark McDaniel will have to play assignment football against Brevard’s option attack. Taylor ranks second in the SAC in tackles per game.
Even with massive rushing yards, Brevard is winless because it’s struggled to pass (just 47 attempts in seven games) and because it hasn’t stopped anyone. Brevard is allowing 46.4 points a game, a staggering figure that ranks 162nd out of 167 D-II teams.
Catawba’s offense should get rolling again. QB Mike Sheehan leads the SAC in passing yards, while Carlos Tarrats leads the league with six TD catches. Tarrats, who missed the second half at Wingate with cramps, made a circus catch at UNC Pembroke on which he produced a big play even after a Brave grabbed his jersey.
“Some weeks I get double-teamed and it’s kind of hard,” Tarrats said. “I just have to be patient and find a way to make plays when I have the opportunity.”
An overlooked area of improvement is punting. Freshman Caleb Berry leads the SAC with nearly 40 yards per punt. His six boomers at UNC Pembroke included a 63-yarder, and he averaged 46.7 yards per punt for the day.
Berry spends his practice time working on technical aspects rather than wearing out his leg with kicks.
“I only punted 20 balls last week,”he said. “I work mostly on getting the drop exactly right, getting the correct angle and working on foot position. Minor adjustments can mean major results on Saturdays.”
Berry’s emergence has allowed Chad Hollandsworth to concentrate on placekicking. It will be a surprise if Hollandsworth isn’t very busy Saturday kicking extra points.
Catawba leads the all-time series 6-1 and won 34-17 at Brevard last year.
Mike London: 704-797-4259; twitter.com/
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