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College Football: Catawba visits Davidson tonight

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

Catawba plays Davidson tonight (7:00) at Richardson Field, but the Indians haven’t talked about the Wildcats much this week.
Catawba (0-1) found out it had a lot of things to fix after a 44-13 loss to West Georgia on opening day, so the focus has been on self-improvement rather than game-planning for the opposition.
Catawba won in a breeze — 35-7 — at Davidson’s picturesque Richardson Field in 2014.
“Davidson got better after they played us and I’m sure they’re an improved team,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said. “But we’ve got to make our own strides. We’ve got to make fewer turnovers. We’ve got to establish running lanes for our returners and we’ve got to close down running lanes for their returners. We’ve got to establish a passing game. We’ve got to establish a running game. We’ve got to do better in the red zone and we’ve got to do better on third down.”
If it sounds like Catawba didn’t do anything right in taking a beating from a highly-ranked opponent, well, that’s not entirely accurate.
“I’m not down,” Walker said. “For a half, we were very involved in winning that football game, and there were a lot of pluses. We’ll build on the things we did well.”
The Indians played a stellar second quarter, the defense created five turnovers, the offensive line allowed only one sack, and players such as linebackers Kyle Kitchens and Jamal Lackey, running back Cary Littlejohn, kicker Chad Hollandsworth and special-teams hit man R.J. Beaty had their moments.
“You can make All-American on special teams,” Beaty said with a smile. “That’s the goal.”
Davidson (0-1) had a much harder time finding pluses from its opener — a 59-0 loss to The Citadel. Davidson gave up a staggering 535 rushing yards to the Bulldogs, barely topped 100 yards of offense and tossed four interceptions.
Just 36 miles away, Davidson will be Catawba’s shortest road trip of the season.
Davidson leads the all-time series, 17-6, although the Wildcats’ wins came years ago, when they played scholarship football. Catawba has won the last four meetings.
Some fans were surprised at how emphatically Catawba rolled against the Wildcats last year — it was 28-0 by halftime — but Davidson’s football program is non-scholarship. What happened was what was supposed to happen. Lackey had a pick-six, Mike Sheehan threw three touchdown passes, and David Burgess scored on the ground.
Sheehan and Burgess were among numerous Indians who sustained injuries in a physical opener with a West Georgia team that was as good as anyone Catawba’s faced in Walker’s head-coaching tenure, including FCS Western Carolina last year and a national runner-up Lenoir-Rhyne squad in 2013.
While no specific information was available at Catawba’s press conference, Burgess’ injury is serious and will keep the talented running back sidelined for an extended period.
Sheehan probably will play tonight, as Catawba’s offense seeks to regain its swagger after an outing in which it produced a meager 145 yards.
“Davidson can come out and swing for the fences,” Littlejohn said. “People expect us to win big, but it’s very important for us, not just to win, but to play this game at a high level. We need to play like we know how.”
Beaty agreed Catawba needs a confidence-boosting showing, with Carson-Newman waiting on deck.
“The big problem we had last year was not finishing games and the same thing happened against West Georgia,” Beaty said. “We want to finish against Davidson in all three phases.”

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