SALISBURY, N.C. --- The Catawba College football team scored 20 points in the final four minutes including a pair of defensive touchdowns to lead the Catawba Indians to a come-from-behind 55-37 homecoming victory over Tusculum University Saturday afternoon at Shuford Stadium.
Catawba (2-5, 1-3 SAC) snaps a four-game losing skid while recording its first league win of the year. Tusculum (4-3, 3-2 SAC) suffers its first set back of the month, but still remains in third place in the conference standings but is now a full two games behind SAC leader Lenoir-Rhyne (7-1, 5-0 SAC).
Catawba's Kenyatta Greene finished the game with 254 all-purpose yards with a rushing touchdown and a 71-yard punt return for a score.
Tusculum took a 23-7 halftime lead before Catawba outscored the Pioneers 48-14 in the second half including 34-7 in the fourth quarter alone.
The two teams combined for eight turnovers on the afternoon with Tusculum committing five miscues (4 interceptions, 1 fumble) while Catawba was intercepted three times in the opening half resulting in Tusculum's 16-point halftime lead.
Catawba scored touchdowns on its first two possessions to start the second half. Quarterback Ken Avent scrambled for a 41-yard run on the first play of the quarter to get to the TU 30-yardline. Five plays later, Avent completed a 12-yard TD pass to tight end Jourdan Osinskie. Lee Brackman's kick made it a 23-14 game with 12:15 left in the quarter.
TU went three and out on its first possession of the half and would punt. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Avent completed a pass to Greene that covered 63 yards to the TU 6. The Pioneer defense held strong and forced a 26-yard field goal. The kick was good, but Tusculum was whistled for a personal foul on the play. The Indians took the points off the board to move the ball to the TU 4-yardline. Two plays later, Avent dove in for a one-yard touchdown to cut the Tusculum lead to two at 23-21 at the 6:27 mark of the third.
The Pioneers bounced back and drove 75 yards in 11 plays culminating with a Maxwell Joseph five-yard TD run. Joe Defatta's extra-point extended the Tusculum lead to 30-21 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. The big play of the drive came on a Tommy Pistone 23-yard completion to Joseph to move into Catawba territory.
Catawba cut the Tusculum lead back to two points as Will Sweeper hauled in a 47-yard pass from Avent to move the ball to the TU 32 and Nasjzae Bryant later rushed for a five-yard TD as the Pioneers led 30-28 with 13:50 left in the game.
Tusculum got to its own 40-yardline on its next possession but the Pioneers were flagged for holding and would be forced to punt. But on the kick, Greene returned the punt 71 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and give Catawba its first lead of the day at 35-30.
Trailing for the first time, the Pioneers answered with an 8-play, 70-yard drive with running back Lor'renzo Pratt running 19 yards to the Catawba 18-yardline. Pistone completed an 18-yard TD strike to Brian Burnett as the Pioneers led 37-35 with 6:42 left in the game.
The Pioneers looked to have all the momentum as the Catawba Indians were held to three running plays and were forced to punt. Brackman got off a 56-yarder as Tusculum took over at its own 26 with 4:53 remaining on the scoreboard.
On the second play of the possession, wide receiver Aaron Fudge fumbled the football which was picked up by Catawba's Jeremy Addison and returned for a 16-yard touchdown with four minutes remaining as the Indians led again 42-37.
Tusculum still had time as Pistone completed an 11-yard pass to Ajay Belanger for a first down to the TU 36. The Pioneers fumbled on the next play but TU's Jacob Moss recovered the ball, but for a 13-yard loss back to the TU 23. Pistone found Burnett for an 11-yard completion to the TU 34. But on the next play, Pistone was intercepted by Chris Thompson as he returned the pick for a 42-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. The ensuing extra-point was blocked by Colton Strickland as Catawba's lead stood at 48-37 with 2:07 left.
Pistone was intercepted for a third time on the afternoon, this time by LJ Melvin. On third-down and nine, Greene ran in for a 33-yard touchdown to seal the victory for the Tribe.
The Tusculum out-gained Catawba in total yardage by a 409-308 margin. Avent accounted for three touchdowns (2 rush, 1 pass). He went 9-of-20 for 169 yards, one touchdown and was intercepted three times in the first half. He also ran 19 times for 64 yards and two scored. Greene rushed nine times for 42 yards and hauled in three receptions for 86 yards.
Pistone came off the bench and passed for 210 yards going 20-of-31 with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Starting QB Alex Ogle went three series before Pistone took over late in the first quarter. Ogle went 2-of-6 for 42 yards with an interception.
Pratt was the top yardage man of the day for Tusculum as he churned out 166 all-purpose yards including 85 rushing, 10 receiving and 71 yards on his three kickoff returns. Joseph tallied 84 rushing yards on 17 carries and a TD. Brian Burnett finished with a season-best eight catches for 90 yards and one score.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Defatta put the Pioneers on the board first with his 31-yard field goal with 13:30 left before halftime as TU led 3-0.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, TU's Bryce Bartlett intercepted Avent at midfield. But two plays later, the Pioneers gave the ball back as Addison came up with his first interception of the day and returned it five yard to the Catawba 12.
But two plays later again with Avent scrambling in the end zone, TU's Josh Forrest intercepted him at the one and rolled in for his first collegiate touchdown as the Pioneers led 10-0 at the 11:56 mark of the quarter. On score, Tusculum was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct forcing TU to kick off from its own 20.
Greene returned the kickoff 23 yards to set up great field position at the Catawba 45. A TU personal foul penalty along with a 21-yard run by Avent set up a one-yard TD by the Catawba signal caller as the Indians trailed 10-7 with 10:09 remaining in the half.
The two teams exchanged punts as TU started from its own 43-yardline with 6:10 left in the half. Catawba would pick up back-to-back penalties with a personal foul and a pass interference call to move the football to the CAT 7. Joseph ran for two yards and followed with a five-yard TD rush to extend the TU lead to 17-7.
Tusculum linebacker Ivan Hogans posted his second interception of the year when he picked off Avent and returned it nine yards to the CAT 35. Pratt ran for 27 yards and scored on the next play from eight yards away as TU led 23-7. Defatta's extra-point try was unsuccessful for his first miss in 21 tries this year.
The Pioneers were penalized 11 times for 69 yards while Catawba was whistled six time for 60 yards. Tusculum recorded 24 first downs to Catawba's 15. TU outgained Catawba 157-139 in rushing yards as well as 205-171 passing. Tusculum held the ball for 35:12 to Catawba's 24:48.
The 34 points allowed in the fourth quarter are the second most by a Tusculum team in school history and one point shy of the 35 points allowed at Gardner-Webb in 1997.
Catawba had three players finish with 10 tackles including Mike Miller, Cameron Davis and LJ Melvin. Hogans led the Pioneers with his eight stops, while the trip of Dee Alford, Bryce Bartlett and Randy Hooks had five tackles apiece.
The Pioneers are back in action next Saturday when they host arch-rival Carson-Newman University for Senior Day beginning at 1:30 p.m. from Pioneer Field. Catawba will host its Senior Day next week when they welcome Limestone College for a 1:30 p.m. contest.