College football: Blue Bears, Indians at home on Saturday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2022

Staff report

SALISBURY — Catawba and Livingstone are both at home on Saturday.

Kickoffs for both games are set for 4 p.m.

Both local squads are coming off losses and b oth have conference match-ups.

Tusculum comes down from the Tennessee mountains to take on Catawba on Kirkland Field at Shuford Stadium, while Virginia State makes a 225-mile trip to face Livingstone on the light blue turf at Alumni Memorial Stadium.

The road trips to Salisbury have generally been rewarding experiences for Virginia State’s Trojans.

Livingstone (1-2, 0-1 CIAA) hasn’t beaten the Trojans since 1998, an era when LC was beating just about everybody. Virginia State leads the all-time series 21-9. The most recent meeting of the programs was in 2017 when Virginia State crushed the Blue Bears 56-18 in Salisbury.

Virginia State (2-1, 1-0) is ranked sixth in the most recent Division II HBCU poll, but the good news is it doesn’t appear that Virginia State is as strong as Virginia Union, the powerhouse team that beat Livingstone 42-6 last week.

Livingstone actually did better than expected on the road at Virginia Union. Some expected the Blue Bears to lose by 60.

Virginia State has won handily against Bluefield and St. Augustine’s, but the Trojans lost by 19 to Lenoir-Rhyne.

Virginia State boasts a stout defense and is expected to present problems for Livingstone with its balanced offense. The Trojans did whatever they wanted to against St. Augustine’s, which appears to be one of the CIAA’s weaker teams. Virginia State rolled up 458 yards of offense (with 270 rushing) and forced four turnovers on defense. Offensive leaders for Virginia State include quarterback Jabari Blake, running back Darius Hagans and Kimo “Human Joystick” Clarke, who can score on the ground or through the air.

Virginia State is a 17-point favorite.

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Catawba (1-2, 0-1 South Atlantic Conference) is a 7-point underdog against Tusculum.

The season is a month old, but it’s the belated home opener for the Indians, who won at Livingstone before dropping road games at Shorter and Mars Hill.

The Mars Hill game was disappointing. A 10-point underdog going into it, Catawba got off to an awful start, including a fumble on the opening kickoff, and was never really in the game. Mars Hill bottled up Catawba’s big-play guy Kujuan Pryor, and it was 38-0 before the Indians finally got on the board on a Ridge Jacobs to Will Sheehan pass play.

Speaking of Jacobs, he’s healthy now, after missing the first two games with a high ankle sprain. It’s possible the South Florida transfer could spark an offense that is searching for a spark.

Tusculum (2-1, 0-1) won an easy one against St. Augustine’s and a hard one against Chowan before being whipped 27-10 by Wingate last week.

Of course, Wingate whips a lot of people these days.

If you’re looking for good news, Tusculum lacks the powerful running game that Mars Hill used to maul Catawba. The Pioneers are pretty one-dimensional. They’re going to sling it. This will be a Saturday in which pass rush and pass coverage communication are the keys for Catawba’s defense.

Tusculum quarterback Tre Simmons has been airing it out. The Pioneers have put the ball in the air 95 times in three games. Simmons has thrown for 730 yards and a SAC-leading seven touchdowns.

Catawba and Tusculum combined for 774 passing yards in the 2010 meeting of the programs (the Pioneers won that one 54-44), but things hopefully will be calmer than that on Saturday.

Catawba won 31-28 against Tusculum last October, one of the highlights of the season, and leads the all-time series 17-8.

Be prepared to pay from $10 to $20 to park in the vicinity of the stadium, depending on the lot you choose. New safety measures also are in place, including a “clear bag” policy.

The weather is expected to be pleasant, with temperatures in the high 70s.

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