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College football: Catawba falls to 1-2 with loss at UNCP

Staff report

PEMBROKE — UNC Pembroke’s football team was as perfect as the weather.

The Braves never turned it over, scored a touchdown on every visit to the red zone and smoothly handled Catawba 28-14 on Saturday night at Grace Johnson Stadium.

The Braves (2-1) bounced back from a loss to Virginia State and thumped Catawba with a near-flawless performance in front of 3,757 fans. UNCP was penalized only three times for 26 yards.

Catawba (1-2) had won its previous two meetings with UNCP — by blowout in 2017 and in overtime in 2018 — but UNP never trailed in this one.

Catawba sophomore quarterback Kendall Davis, making his third college start, had a good statistical day on the surface, completing 19 of 38 passes for 220 yards and rushing for a team-high 66 yards, but there was a fumble on the exchange from center when Catawba had first-and-goal at the 6 — that may have been the biggest play all night — and threw an interception.

Those Catawba turnovers and a missed field goal were immense because whenever UNC Pembroke got the ball it was a challenge for the Indians to stop them.

Both teams failed to move on their first possession, but the Braves, who rushed for 208 net yards, scored the second time they had the ball. Josh Sheridan broke a 50-yard run to the Catawba 21. Two plays later, Josh Jones threw a touchdown pass to Faheem Diaab, and the home team lead 7-0.

In the second quarter, Catawba had to punt and Devin Jones returned it 44 yards to the Catawba 18. Jones put the ball in the end zone two snaps later, and the Indians were in a 14-0 hole.

Catawba drove late in the half, but that’s when the fumble at the 6 occurred.

Catawba launched the second half with a terrific drive that  cut UNCP’s lead to 14-7. The Indians traveled 74 yards on 17 plays, taking 7 minutes, 12 seconds off the clock. Andrew Bynum got the touchdown from the 1.

That drive had some similarities to the one Catawba made a week ago to win at Winston-Salem State, and the Indians had momentum. They had more momentum after a Robert Chery sack forced UNCP to punt on its next possession.

Catawba still trailed 14-7 late in the third quarter, but UNCP got a critical drive moving with Sheridan pounding first downs. Early in the fourth quarter, Jones finished the drive with his second TD pass for a 21-7 lead.

On the first play after the Braves kicked off, Catawba took a shot downfield and Davis was intercepted by UNCP’s Sean Hill at the Braves’ 30.

Then UNCP drove 70 yards for the touchdown that made it 28-7.

Catawba got its final TD on Davis’ 5-yard scoring pass to Chylon Thomas with 8:13 remaining, but that was as close as the Indians could get.

UNCP was able to kill the final 4 minutes, 29 seconds with seven running plays and a couple of first downs behind its big offensive line.

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