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College Football: Catawba vs. Tusculum preview

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

TUSCULUM (2-7, 1-4 SAC) at CATAWBA (4-5, 4-1 SAC)
Shuford Stadium — Today, 1:30 p.m.
RADIO: WSAT Memories 1280  Video webcast at http://portal.stretchinternet.com/catawba/
COACHES: Tusculum — Jerry Odom is in his first season at Tusculum. He played linebacker at Florida and then spent seven seasons as a linebacker/running back with the Orlando Predators of the Arena League. He coached linebackers and coordinated special teams at Florida from 2000-02, and from 2003-2005, he was the defensive coordinator/special teams coordinator at East Carolina.
He coached high school ball in Georgia and in the Arena League before being hired as Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator and associate head coach in 2010. He spent six seasons there before being hired by Tusculum last December.
Catawba — Curtis Walker. Walker, in his fourth season at Catawba, is 25-18. He’s 2-1 against Tusculum, losing in 2013 but winning the last two. Walker’s teams have actually been more successful on the road (14-8) than at home (11-10).
LAST WEEK: Catawba steamrolled outmanned Brevard, 42-7. Tusculum lost at Mars Hill, 28-27, in overtime. That was the Pioneer’s best road effort so far. They’re 0-4 on the road.
SERIES: Catawba leads 14-6. The teams have played annually since their first meeting in 1996, a 49-7 win by the Indians.
WORTH MENTIONING: Tusculum edged Brevard, 21-14, a score that gives Catawba a lot of confidence. On the other hand, Tusculum also beat the Limestone squad that upset Catawba.
• Today is Senior Day at Shuford Stadium. Catawba will graduate a strong group, including some of the original recruits by Walker’s staff as well as studs such as guard T.J. Olsen and defensive end C.J. Barksdale who were inherited players. All the seniors want to go out with a bang in their final home game,
• Catawba still has stuff to play for. With only one loss the Indians are still alive to tie for the SAC championship, but that hope is now contingent on Wingate knocking off Newberry on Nov. 12. Two more wins would push Catawba to 6-5 overall. That would mean a fourth straight winning season.
• This is a different kind of Tusculum team. Tusculum used to throw on virtually every play. Now the Pioneers run the ball two-thirds of the time. “They’re really changed their mentality,” Walker said. “They’ll give us a lot of different looks offensively and defensively. They’ll use a lot of motion, a lot of shifts. They try to upset you and force you into making mistakes.”
• Tusculum linebacker L’Keith Brown makes more tackles than anyone in the SAC — better than 10 per game.
• Punter Caleb Berry was ill last week, but Catawba never had to punt. Lee Brackman would’ve punted if necessary.
• Former West Rowan and Catawba offensive lineman Tim Pangburn is in his first full season as an assistant coach. He works with Brian Hinson as an assistant OL coach.
Pangburn has a degree in physical education.
WATCH FOR: Former third-stringer Joseph Dress is again the likely starter at quarterback for Catawba, with Greg Waslo backing him up. Catawba didn’t throw much last week — but it was running the ball with such efficiency that it didn’t need to. Tusculum will likely load the box with at least seven defenders to try to make the Indians throw it.
Catawba is plus-10 on turnovers for the season, while Tusculum is minus-3. Catawba should win this game as long as it doesn’t turn the ball over three or four times.
• Catawba and Tusculum have surprisingly similar defensive numbers for the season. The Indians haven’t set the world on fire offensively, but still they’ve been much more productive than Tusculum. Tusculum ranks 166th — out of 170 D-II squads — in offensive yards per game.

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