College Football: North Greenville-Catawba
NORTH GREENVILLE (3-2) at CATAWBA (4-1)
Kirkland Field at Shuford Stadium
Today, 1:30 p.m.
Radio: WSAT Memories 1280. Live stats: gocatawbaindians.athleticssite.net
Coaches — Catawba’s Curtis Walker (30-20) is in his fifth season as head coach. Walker is 13-11 in home games. Walker is 2-0 coaching against North Greenville, including a victory at Shuford Stadium in 2014.
Jeff Farrington is in his fifth season at North Greenville and is 30-22 at the helm of the Crusaders and 0-2 against Catawba. Farrington played defensive back at The Citadel. His expertise is on the defensive side of the ball and he was a defensive coach at several places, including West Georgia, East Tennessee State, Mercer, VMI and Furman, before arriving in North Greenville.
Last game: Catawba gave up huge plays defensively in a disappointing, 31-18 road loss at Carson-Newman. North Greenville threw for 300 yards in a 38-34 loss at Kennesaw State, an FCS-level team. Kennesaw State’s Owls scored with 16 seconds left to avoid an upset.
Series: This is the seventh meeting. Catawba leads the series, 4-2. Catawba won 55-0 in 2000 and 59-0 in 2001 when a shaky North Greenville program was still in its early stages. North Greenville beat struggling Catawba teams in 2011 and 2012 before the Indians won in 2013 and 2014.
Players to watch: Catawba linebacker Kyke Kitchens ranks in the top 10 nationally with seven sacks. Trey Evans, another senior linebacker, leads the team with 33 tackles. He has four tackles for loss and three pass breakups. Cornerback Cris Page has three of Catawba’s seven interceptions. Defensive end Trevor Bembry is coming off his best game of the season at Carson-Newman. Sam Mobley has 515 receiving yards in five games and is in the top 25 nationally. Patrick O’Brien is completing 58 percent of his passes and has 1,062 passing yards and 12 TD tosses. Eamon Smart is averaging nearly 100 rushing yards per game. This game could come down to a field goal, a specialty handled by placekicker Lee Brackman, holder Joseph Dress, a backup receiver, and snapper Tyler McHargue, a backup tight end.
North Greenville junior quarterback Will Hunter has passed for 860 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s an accurate thrower, but not a runner. Robbie Brown, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior, has 26 catches for 391 yards and three TDs. Sophomore Matt Gravely has been a weapon with eight field goals. Sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Burger has made a team-high 47 tackles.
Worth mentioning: As a Division II independent, it’s a challenge for the Crusaders to put a schedule together. They’re playing half of their 10 games against South Atlantic Conference teams. They won close ones against Tusculum and Limestone and they dropped a game on Sept. 9 to Lenoir-Rhyne. Limestone will also visit Carson-Newman.
North Greenville isn’t the standard foe on offense or defense. “We’ve had to prepare our defense for a team that uses a lot of different formations to try to get the matchup it wants,” Walker said. “Defensively, they use a 50 scheme (a five-man front with a nose tackle over the center), and they blitz more than most teams. They also are very good on special teams.”
Weather: Temperatures in the 70s, with the chance of rain less than 10 percent.
Outlook: It’s non-conference, but it’s an important game for Catawba. The Indians are coming off a loss for the first time this year and are facing serious adversity for the first time after everything— with the exception of QB Reid Carlton’s injury — went right the first four weeks. All of Catawba’s last four games with North Greenville were struggles, so there’s no reason to expect anything different today.
North Greenville’s defense is designed to stop the run. Catawba will have to run it some, but the Indians’ usually balanced run/pass mix may tilt more toward passing today.
Defensively, the Indians will be focused on stopping big plays. That’s what they’ve talked about all week and worked on all week.