College football: Catawba at Wingate on Saturday night

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Wingate would rank very high on a Catawba list of football rivals and preferred teams to beat, so four straight losses to the Bulldogs haven’t been much fun.

Those setbacks have been tough on the coaches, tough on the players, tough on the fan base.

Unfortunately, a fifth consecutive  loss in the series appears likely on Saturday.

Wingate is a 24-point favorite in a South Atlantic Conference game that will kick off at 6 p.m. at Irwin Belk Stadium.

Wingate (4-1, 2-1) is beatable — a surprising overtime loss to Emory & Henry made that clear — but the Bulldogs still have a lot more strengths than weaknesses.

Wingate has a ton of experience, a roster laden with juniors, seniors, fifth-year seniors and graduate students.

Catawba, which relies heavily on freshmen and sophomores, will be at a major disadvantage again in that regard. It’s a fact that 22-year-olds are bigger and faster and make better decisions than 19-year-olds.

The most important Bulldog veteran is in the most important spot. Quarterback Shaw Crocker is still around and is still good. He’s thrown seven TD passes and he’s the reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Week.

Crocker directed Wingate to a flawless game on Saturday, a routine 31-7 pounding of Erskine. Wingate threw for 227 yards and ran for 208. Wingate didn’t turn it over and went 8-for-15 on third-down conversions and 3-for-3 on red zone scoring opportunities. The Bulldogs possessed the ball for 41 of 60 minutes against Erskine.

Maybe the scariest thing about Wingate is that the Bulldogs lead Division II with 24 sacks. Defensive end Dj Horne, a Tuskegee transfer, has six.

Catawba (1-4, 0-3) hasn’t been helped by a road-heavy schedule so far. This will be Catawba’s fifth road game in six weeks.

It’s possible Catawba is looking at a 1-10 season — that’s the current projection by the Massey Ratings — but the Indians usually do enough every week to provide some hope for fans.

At Emory & Henry last week, Catawba was stout defensively in the first quarter and pretty lively on offense in the fourth quarter.

The pick-sixes the last two weeks have been devastating for the Indians. Avoid those huge momentum swings and the Indians could make things interesting against the Bulldogs.

Newberry and Limestone are next. Those two games will be at home, but the Wolves and Saints are both 4-1.