September 26, 2001
Catawba notebookBy Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post
It took four weeks but undefeated Catawba had someone named as SACPlayer of the Week.
After a 28-14 victory over Presbyterian, the honor went to true freshman Rodney Wallace.
His nickname is Rodzilla, and for good reason. The three-time South Carolina wrestling champ out of Bamberg, he is 5-foot-10, 210 pounds of M-A-N.
He looks like a fullback but quickly tells you, “In my eyes, I’m a tailback.”
Whatever he is, Presbyterian, which did not recruit him, has seen enough. Wallace had the team’s first 100-yard plus game, finishing with 145 on 26 carries and said it didn’t take long for him to sense this was going to be a good day.
“On my first run, I went 10, 15 yards and thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to run over them now,’” he said.
Wallace has been the biggest surprise in the backfield.
“You kinda have visions and dreams for them,” head coach David Bennett said of incoming freshmen. “But you don’t know what is in their heart. We knew physically, he could handle it.”
WINNING: The win put Catawba, ranked sixth in the nation, at 4-0. It was the Indians’ 20th straight regular season victory and 14th straight in the South Atlantic Conference.
PRESSURE? Is there pressure on this team?
“There is no pressure,” Bennett said. “Last year (an 11-1 season), we were supposed to be good. Everybody and their brother and cousin and uncle and sister knew it. But we lost 16 starters, nine on offense. So this year, we’re just having a lot of fun.”
TODD TIME:How did Walker’s defense do against Blue Hose All-American quarterback Todd Cunningham Saturday?
Just hearing the name “Todd Cunningham” can make a coach shudder. Just listen to Walker.
“Cunningham’s a great athlete, man. It was a tough week to prepare for him. We just tried to contain him as much as we could.”
Secondary star Corey Reese and Jamel Jackson each had interceptions. Cunningham had a couple of long gainers but not for scores.
“We had to minimize their big plays,” said Reese.
CAN’T GET ME: Cunningham was only sacked once all day (by Shawn Sanders)but before you start lauding the Blue Hose offensive line for keeping Catawba off of him, Bennett said to watch the film.
Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula said PC’s offense takes the defensive line out of the game.
“The ball is not in his hands for more than three seconds,” Bennett added.
TODD’S FUTURE: Even though Todd Cunningham might eventually end up as the Division II all-time passing leader (he has over 8,000 passing yards in his career), he isn’t sure about his prospects in a professional football league.
“A couple of scouts have looked at me,” he said after throwing for 299 yards against Catawba. “We’ll see what happens. If I get a chance, great. If I don’t, I guess I’ll have to go get a job.”
STREAK INTACT:Cedric Squirewell caught one pass Saturday — the 26th straight game he has caught at least one, a school record.
The receivers did not see much action, despite Nick Means’ touchdown.
“They told me it didn’t matter, as long as we win,” Bennett said.
FREEZE HIM:You wonder what three time outs can do to a kicker.
Catawba found out on the last play of the first half with the score tied 7-7.
Hose kicker Chandler Wood lined up for a 27-yard chip shot field goal when Bennett called time. Wood trotted over to the sidelines. He went back on the field and Bennett called another TO. Wood trotted over to the sidelines. He went back on the field and Bennett called his third TO.
When Wood finally did kick it, he missed, wide right.
MOVING AROUND: The offensive line blocked well enough for Catawba to run for 338 yards. And it was a makeshift line.
Center Bucky Yates had injured an ankle so Daniel Lynch moved there. Demetrius Hopper, who was supposed to be out two weeks with a bad ankle, played. Antwon Trice, a true freshman from Florida, moved into the lineup.
And the hogs were pumped.
“I looked out there one time and Joe Nixon is beating his chest,” Bennett laughed. “Ihave never seen a lineman penalized for celebrating but an official said, ‘You better calm him down.’ We told Joe, ‘Get your butt back to the huddle and hush!’”
AND BABY MAKES FOUR: There will be another assistant coach at Catawba in a few months.
Chip Hester’s wife, Trish, a coach at North Rowan, is pregnant.
LEADING TACKLERS: Presbyterian throws so much that linebackers and defensive linemen don’t get in on many tackles.
In fact, four of the top five tacklers were defensive backs. Linebacker Todd McComb, the team leader, had seven, followed by Reese (6), Grant Cain (5), Jackson (5) and Jemonte Battle (4).
THE RANKINGS: Catawba is ranked sixth in the country and second in the South Region.
AROUND THE SAC: Watch out for Tusculum.
The Pioneers are 4-0 after beating Wingate 27-15.
Newberry, Carson-Newman and Mars Hill are all 3-1 after wins last week.
Besides Newberry’s trip to Catawba, other Saturday games are Carson-Newman at Mars Hill, Tusculum at Lenoir-Rhyne, Wingate at Liberty and Presbyterian at North Greenville.
NOTES: Catawba’s defense is ranked first in the country in scoring rushing and total defense. ... Catawba beat Presbyterian for the third straight season, the first time in school history that has happened. ... All four scoring drives were over 10 plays and Catawba scored on its first three possessions of the second half. ... The defense gave up its first points of the season but did intercept Cunningham twice. ... Catawba is 17-of-17 in the red zone ( the opponents’ 20-yard line). ... Mike London’s preview on Newberry will appear in Saturday’s Post.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4256 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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