College football: Indians look to get well at home

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

By Mike London

SALISBURY — It’s homecoming weekend for Catawba, with the 1 p.m. South Atlantic Conference football game against Tusculum serving as the centerpiece for the activities.

The Indians (4-2, 1-2) will be looking to stop a two-game slide in front of a supportive crowd at Kirkland Field and Shuford Stadium.

Catawba’s 4-2 record is a product of four home wins and two road losses, so playing at home has to be viewed as a positive.

The last two weeks have not gone smoothly.

Catawba was among the leaders in Division II in turnover differential and rushing yards before hitting the road for games at Newberry, a 14-7 setback, and Mars Hill, a 31-14 loss. It goes without saying that the Indians are no longer among the national leaders in those categories.

Catawba was an underdog and wasn’t supposed to win at Newberry or Mars Hill, but the results were still deflating.

Catawba was rushing for about 260 yards per game before it was limited to 91 yards on 29 rushes by Newberry.

It got worse against Mars Hill, as the Indians had 65 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Catawba had to put it in the air more than they wanted to, and the Lions came up with three picks.

So the Indians have to get the running attack untracked and they have to get back to winning the turnover battle. If they do that, they’ve got a good chance against Tusculum.

Tusculum (4-4, 2-3) isn’t bad, by any means, but it’s also not one of the SAC’s elite. Tusculum has lost to three SAC teams it should lose to — Lenoir-Rhyne, Wingate and Newberry — while beating the two that it should have beaten —UVA-Wise and Limestone.

In its last two games, Tusculum will be an underdog at Mars Hill and a heavy favorite at home against Carson-Newman.

Tusculum’s non-conference wins are against Barton and St. Augustine’s. The non-conference loss was an overtime game with Chowan.

Catawba lost to Tusculum in 2019, but rolled over the Pioneers in 2017 and 2018.

Tusculum likes to throw the ball. Ivan Corbin has passed for 1,916 yards and 14 touchdowns. His stats are almost identical to those of Mars Hill QB Jimmy Urzea, who gave the Indians trouble last week. Justice Parham has 603 receiving yards and six TDs. Cortney Jackson has 423 rushing yards and seven TDs.

Lineman Nelson Louis, SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year a few seasons ago, has been disruptive, with seven sacks.

Tusculum puts up quite a few points and allows quite a few. Tusculum’s loss to Lenoir-Rhyne was 38-31, while the loss to Wingate was 43-35.

So 31-28 is a lot more likely Saturday than 17-10. The Indians are 5-point underdogs, according to the Massey Ratings.

Catawba hasn’t had the offensive or defensive player of the week in the SAC all season, but maybe this is the week for quarterback Ken Avent III or linebacker Jeremiah Ferguson. Ferguson has 44 tackles in six games. He leads the team by a lot. Former East Rowan star Christian Bennett has been in on 25 tackles.