College football: Limestone (and new coach) play at Catawba Saturday
By Mike London
SALISBURY— It’s a dismal, rainy Friday, par for the course for a weekend that includes the Catawba Indians playing host to the Limestone Saints.
Kickoff is at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday. WSAT will provide the radio broadcast, as always, while the game will be televised on Channel 64.
The Catawba-Limestone tussles in 2015 and 2016 were played in adverse conditions. Weather-related mistakes and turnovers dominated miserable action.
Catawba managed to win in Gaffney, S.C., 10-3, in 2015, but fell to the Saints at Shuford Stadium, 6-0, in 2016. That game might be Catawba head coach Curtis Walker’s least favorite in his six-season tenure.
The 2017 game in Gaffney was the first relatively normal one between the two programs. Catawba outscored Limestone, 45-28, behind a 400-yard, four-TD barrage by QB Patrick O’Brien. Catawba trailed, 17-10, at halftime but put together a massive second half. A couple of the Indians who had dazzling days in Gaffney, tight end Jourdan Osinskie and running back Kenyatta Greene, are still in uniform and are still very good.
While Catawba (2-5, 1-3) is playing for pride and to establish a modest, two-game winning streak. Limestone (0-8, 0-5) is playing for respect – and for a new head coach.
It’s been ugly enough for Limestone that a 16-13 loss to West Alabama was definitely the highlight of the season. Standing out among the dreary outings, Limestone was thumped by Lenoir-Rhyne, 63-17, and pounded by Carson-Newman, 52-24.
Limestone announced a head-coaching change early this week, dismissing first-year guy Tony Ierulli and replacing him with offensive coordinator Brian Turk.
That’s probably a worrisome development for Catawba, which would have preferred to take on a winless team going through the motions and playing out the string. Limestone can’t do worse for Turk, and might do better. Sometimes a sudden coaching switch can provide short-term inspiration. Limestone has only two games left — Catawba and Wingate — so there’s not much time left to get a win in 2018.
Searching for statistical clues as to why Limestone is 0-8, the Saints are a distant last in the South Atlantic Conference in rushing yards with 774 in eight games and also last in the league in scoring defense, allowing 42.8 points per game. Limestone also is last in the SAC with only seven sacks.
Those Limestone shortcomings point to a potentially productive day for Catawba’s offensive playmakers — Greene, Osinskie, receiver Will Sweeper and quarterback Ken Avent III — no matter how bad the weather is.
Catawba’s defense expects to face a stiffer challenge.
Limestone throws the ball effectively and is one of the SAC’s top passing teams thanks to a large young quarterback named D.J. Phillips.
A Marshall transfer, Phillips, listed at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, threw for more than 300 yards against the Indians in 2017. He has an outstanding target in Minnesota native Cody Rau, who has 532 receiving yards and five TDs.
It looks like a day on which Catawba’s defense can put Limestone in third-and-long and go after the quarterback. Pressure from Cameron Davis, Jordan Hemingway and Josh Smith, among others, could lead not only to sacks, but to picks from Catawba’s back five.
The Blue and Gold tr