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College football: Catawba plays at Wingate Saturday night

Staff report

Usually contenders in the South Atlantic Conference, Catawba (1-4, 0-2 SAC) and Wingate (3-3, 0-2 SAC) are all but eliminated from the league race.

They’ll meet in a sort of Desperation Bowl on Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Wingate’s Irwin Belk Stadium.

This is the only Catawba game which will not be televised on Channel 64. WSAT, as always, will have the radio broadcast. The game will be streamed online on ESPN3.

Catawba, which lost tight SAC games to Mars Hill and Carson-Newman, has dropped three straight tough contests and sustained a number of key injuries while doing so.

Wingate, which has lost SAC games to Carson-Newman and Lenoir-Rhyne, showed signs of getting back on track last week when the Bulldogs dismantled UNC Pembroke, 51-7, on the road. QB Shaw Crocker threw five TD passes and was the SAC Offensive Player of the Week.

Wingate has dropped its last two home games, a fact that is encouraging for the Indians.

Both teams are burdened by negative turnover stats, which helps explain their losses. Wingate is minus-2, while Catawba stands minus-3.

Wingate has been outstanding at stopping teams on third down and getting its defense off the field. The Bulldogs are 14th in D-II nationally in that category, allowing only a 26 percent conversion rate. To put that number in perspective, Catawba’s defense has allowed opponents a 45 percent conversion rate. That’s been a major issue.

Wingate also has been efficient in the red zone and is a top-40 team nationally in that important stat. On 24 trips to the red zone, Wingate has cashed in 15 touchdowns and five field goals, while being denied four times.

Catawba will rely on promising redshirt freshman Ken Avent III at quarterback for the second straight week, with Reid Carlton dealing with a couple of injuries.

Quick running back Kenyatta Greene is a big-play threat for Catawba, along with receiver Will Sweeper, who can get deep. Several skill players, including running back Demonte Good and tight end Jourdan Osinskie were injured last week, although Osinskie, who has NFL aspirations, vowed he won’t be sidelined long.

This is the 30th meeting of the programs. Catawba still leads the series, 17-13, but the Bulldogs have won six of the last seven and eight of the last 10 in the series. The limited success Catawba has enjoyed in recent years against Wingate has always come at Irwin Belk Stadium.  The Bulldogs won at Catawba’s Shuford Stadium, 27-24, last season.






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