College Football: Ejection wakes up Indians
By Mike London
It wasn’t the sort of wake-up call anyone wanted, but it was effective.
Catawba linebacker Michael Peppers was busy making a sack in the third quarter when he was flagged for targeting and automatically ejected from Saturday’s South Atlantic Conference contest at Brevard.
Peppers was making that sack on a desperation third-and-28 play, and Brevard was awarded an automatic first down.
First-place Catawba (7-2, 4-1) was trying to protect a precarious 10-7 lead against last-place Brevard (0-9, 0-5) when it lost Peppers.
The Indians wound up winning 29-7, so that incident was a turning point.
“Our sideline erupted when Peppers was ejected,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said in a phone interview. “This is a tight team, and guys felt like Peppers had been wronged when he was kicked out of the game. They wanted to support Peppers by playing well.”
After the targeting call granted Brevard’s possession new life, the Tornados pushed to the Catawba 42. On third-and-3 from the 42, Brevard back Tyler Garland was stripped of the ball by Catawba cornerback Mark McDaniel. Linebacker Jamal Lackey made the fumble recovery.
It was all Indians after that.
Chad Hollandsworth’s 29-yard field goal made it 13-7 and provided breathing room.
Then Catawba moved 81 yards — all on the ground. That punishing drive bridged the third and fourth quarters and provided a 20-7 lead.
A safety on a bad snap made it 22-7. Then the Indians finished things off with a 68-yard scoring drive for a 29-7 lead.
“I didn’t relax for the first time until there was about nine minutes to go,” Walker said. “That’s a feisty Brevard team. They’ve played us well and played us hard the last three years.”
Quarterback Mike Sheehan was hurt early when a helmet banged into his elbow, but he was able to stay in the game. Sheehan had some trouble gripping the ball, so the Indians relied on their ground attack even more than usual. They piled up a season-high 363 rushing yards, averaging better than 7 yards per carry. Sheehan used his legs to score all three Catawba touchdowns.
“The running game was there all day for us,” Walker said. “It just took us a while to start finishing drives.”
Cary Littlejohn carried 21 times for 152 yards. David Burgess alternated with Littlejohn and ran 16 times for 135 yards. Sheehan added 67 rushing yards.
Catawba had an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drove on its second possession and had no trouble moving the ball against the Tornados but went 1-for-3 on field-goal attempts in the first half.
Brevard scored in the closing seconds of the half to cut the Indians’ lead to 10-7.
Catawba’s defense was dominant, as Brevard had only four plays that gained 8 or more yards. Brevard’s 54 rushing plays netted just 126 yards, and the Tornados failed to complete a single pass.
Lakey made nine tackles. Kyle Kitchens and Chris Carpenter forced fumbles. Kitchens had three tackles in the Brevard backfield. Jonathan Jean had a fumble recovery.
Brevard’s option offense managed just 16 yards after halftime.
“We learned some lessons and we got the win we came for,” Walker said. “We just couldn’t get going early, but we woke up in the second half.”
The most notable SAC development on Saturday was Lenoir-Rhyne’s third straight league loss, this one by 52-14 to Newberry. Catawba plays at Tusculum next week. Tusculum fell, 31-24, to Mars Hill on Saturday.