GREENVILLE — Sophomore Alex Catron has been Coastal Carolina’s starting kicker for only two games now, but that’s been enough time for him to make quite a mark with the Chanticleers and solidify a position that was one of the team’s most open competitions in preseason camp.
After going 2-for-2 on field goals in the Chants’ opener last week, Catron made 3-of-4 tries Saturday at Furman – including the one that mattered most.
Catron’s 45-yard field goal on a wet Paladin Stadium field as time expired in regulation tied the game and forced overtime to give Coastal a chance to overcome its fourth-quarter collapse and salvage a momentous victory instead.
“It’s unreal. My mind’s blown,” he said. “I knew the offensive line was going to keep fighting, I knew that Shane [Ballard] was going to throw it back and I knew Austin [Cain] had good hands and he’d get the ball down.”
And from there, Catron delivered one of the bigger kicks in recent Coastal football history to cap the quick comeback after Coastal fell behind by three with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“What I’ve really liked as far as Alex goes is what his commitment has been to be focused when he needs to be focused,” CCU coach Joe Moglia said. “There were times when he hasn’t had necessarily a great week of practice, [but he] goes back to the basics. And his fundamentals tonight and all those things were really outstanding. The fact that he was able to handle that under pressure was a big piece of that.”
Catron, who saw limited action on kickoffs and punts last year, converted an early 38-yard field goal Saturday before missing a 44-yard try in the second quarter. After a talk with Moglia on the sidelines, he bounced back to made a 35-yarder late in the fourth and the 45-yard kick to force overtime.
“I missed that kick and coach Moglia came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got to focus in.’ I said, ‘I’ve got you coach, I’m not going to let you down,’ ” Catron recalled. “I just went straight to the net and worked on my fundamentals and everything and I just focused everything up. Then it started to rain and field conditions got a little crappy, but I just went out there the whole time knowing that the offensive line was going to do a good job.”
And at this point, the Chants should have pretty good confidence in their kicker as well.
Taliaferro comes through
Junior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro made his Coastal debut Saturday night and made it count.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior college transfer finished as the Chants’ leading rusher with 55 yards in 13 carries after missing the opener with a shoulder injury.
The biggest of those yards came in the third quarter as he plowed through the line for a 2-yard gain on fourth-and-one at the Furman 3. A couple plays later, he finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown scamper that helped push Coastal’s lead to 17-6 with 2:40 left in the quarter.
“I felt like I did OK, but still room to improve,” he said. “I still need to get better. For the first game, for my first D1 game, I played well, but I think I can improve a lot.”
With senior Marcus Whitener and junior Travis Small both out with injury, Taliaferro worked as the primary backup to senior running back Jeremy Height. As the biggest of Coastal’s backs, the coaches are optimistic he can fill a significant role for the offense going forward.
“I think Lorenzo is a potentially outstanding back,” Moglia said. “He’s still a little new, and he was hurt last week so he wasn’t able to play so I’d say he’s a little bit on the rusty side, but I think ’Zo is a good back and there’s no reason he can’t make a major contribution for us this year.
For the second week in a row, senior quarterback Aramis Hillary set a career high, passing for 292 yards with a career-best 20 completions in 27 attempts.
Junior receivers Matt Hazel (seven receptions for 128 yards) and DeMario Bennett (five catches for 87 yards) also set career highs.
As did sophomore linebacker Quinn Backus with 11 tackles and junior safety Philip George with nine tackles.
Conway grad hurt
Furman senior quarterback Dakota Derrick, a Conway High School product, was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter after taking a hard hit from junior linebacker Mike McClure on a rushing attempt. It was announced that he was sent to the hospital for X-rays on his shoulder.
He finished 4-of-11 passing for 41 yards before exiting.
Senior cornerback and kick returner Tre Henderson did not play for Coastal due to a hamstring injury. Junior LaDarius Hawthorne started in his place at cornerback and Height handled kickoff returns, including a 63-yarder.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.