College football: Catawba wins with 94-yard drive
WINSTON-SALEM — Things looked desperate for Catawba’s football team at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday night, but Kendall Davis steered the Indians on a seven-minute, 94-yard drive that provided a 21-14 victory against the Winston-Salem State Rams.
After trailing the entire second half, Catawba, down 14-13, started its final possession on its 6-yard line after a near-disaster on a punt return.
“We had a young man blocking on that return, doing his job, and suddenly the ball jumps right in his arms at the goal line,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said. “He did the best he could to get it out as far as he could.”
Davis, a sophomore getting a chance to quarterback the Indians with starter Ken Avent III out with an injury, calmly led the winning march. He scored the decisive touchdown himself on a dive into the end zone with 33 seconds left to play. Catawba then tacked on a 2-point conversion on Davis’ pass to Kolby Easley.
WSSU (0-2) threatened to score on the final play of the night on a desperation pass, but Trey Murray made a game-saving stop for Catawba (1-1) at the 2-yard line.
“That play concerned us, and we talked about it,” Walker said. “We’ve got to just knock that ball down. This is not an individual game, and we can’t be worried about trying to get a pick for our stats. Just knock it down, and the team wins.”
Catawba was balanced offensively, grinding the ball on the ground 41 times for 167 yards, with Demonte Good (24 carries, 123 yards) doing most of the heavy lifting. Catawba also enjoyed some success through the air. Davis threw for 147 yards on 11 completions.
Catawba’s defense surrendered 249 passing yards, but did a good job of controlling the run (the Rams had 92 rushing yards) and created game-swinging turnovers.
“Winston-Salem State had a very good quarterback (Dominique Graves), but we did what we had to do to win the game,” Walker said. “We shut them out in the second half. They got a lot of yards in the second half, but no points, and we’ll take that every time.”
Catawba scored the first points of the night on its third possession. A 41-yard completion from Davis to Chylon Thomas to the WSSU 25 led to Davis’ 5-yard scoring flip to freshman Dominic Burnam for a 7-0 lead.
With the game tied at 7-all after a rushing TD by WSSU’s Farrell Murchison, Catawba’s defense came up with an interception. Safety Brenden Westbrook tipped a pass and corner Cris Page made the pick near midfield. Catawba used that field position to push to the Winston-Salem 1-yard line. Catawba was narrowly denied on a third-down play that was stopped at the goal line — the Indians believed Good broke the plane — and settled for a Clayton Crile field point-blank field goal for a 10-7 lead.
The Rams struck with 30 seconds left in the first half on a dynamic, 33-yard TD pass from Graves to Cameron Williams and carried a 14-10 lead and lots of momentum to the locker room.
The Rams had a chance to add to their lead in the third quarter and had moved inside the Catawba 10 when the Indians came up with another turnover. On third-and-5 from the Catawba 7, lineman Cameron Davis deflected a pass on a slant route, and linebacker L.J. Melvin not only made the interception, he galloped on the return to Winston-Salem State 35.
“The turning point in the game,” Walker said. “We were not playing well as a defense, but he came together after that play. From that point in the game forward, we played some outstanding defense.”
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Rams’ 8, Catawba didn’t gamble, opting for another Crile field goal to trim the deficit to 14-13.
With 7:34 left to play, Catawba took over on its 6 and Davis converted on several key plays.
There was a second-down completion to Roman White for 18 yards that got Catawba out of the hole. Davis found White again on third-and-8 from the Catawba 32 to move the chains.
A roughing-the-passer flag moved the Indians into WSSU territory.
Facing fourth-and-2 at the Rams’ 40, Catawba would have lost if it had failed to execute, but Good barreled for 6 more yards to the keep the drive alive.
Good poured through a hole for 17 yards to advance the ball to the WSSU 10-yard line.
From the WSSU 10, Good produced a 9-yard burst to the 1-yard line. On the next snap, with 33 seconds left, Davis was able to jump into the end zone for what proved to be the winning points.
“Just great execution by our offense to not only drive 94 yards, but to use up the clock,” Walker said. “This was a great team effort, and that effort was needed to beat a very good team.”
Catawba’s defense had 11 tackles for loss, with Melvin and linebacker Jeremiah Feguson leading the way with two each. Murray was credited with nine tackles.
Catawba is on the road again next week at 7 p.m. at UNC Pembroke. UNCP (1-1) beat Winston-Salem State in its opener but lost Saturday to Virginia State, 35-16.
Indians 21, Rams 14
Catawba 7 3 3 8 — 21
Winston-Salem St. 0 14 0 0 — 14
C — Burnam 5 pass from Davis (Crile kick), 1:42
WS — Murchison 1 run (Buenaventura kick), 10:38
C — Crile FG 16, 2:01
WS — Williams 33 pass from Graves (Buenaventura kick), 0:30
C — Crile FG 31, 0:36
C — Davis 1 run (Wade pass from Davis), 0:33
First downs 17 15
Rushes-yards 41-167 28-92
Passing yards 147 249
Total yards 314 341
Comp-Att-Int 12-21-1 15-27-2
Punts 4-38.2 5-30.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-60 7-67
3rd down conv. 5-13 5-12
4th down conv. 1-1 1-1
Time of poss. 31:30 28:30
RUSHING — CAT: Good 24-123; Davis 8-32; Thomas 5-9; Bryant 4-3. WSSU: Murchison 14-51; Sloane 6-33; Graves 7-6; Holt 1-2.
PASSING — CAT: Davis 12-21-1, 147. WSSU: Graves 15-27-2, 249.
RECEIVING — CAT: White 3-39; Good 3-33; Thomas 2-50; Wade 2-17; Burnam 1-5; Rose 1-3. WSSU: Belk 5-146; Williams 3-47; Sloane 3-7; Jackson 2-26; Dowdell 1-17; Allen 1-6.