Eagles lambaste UNCP 69-18 behind record-setting day

VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview

VIDEO: Highlights

VIDEO: Damarkus Jones Interview

VIDEO: Desmond Fairell Interview

VIDEO: Antonio Wimbush Interview

VIDEO: Tavon Murray Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (3-1) matched single-game program records for interceptions, rushing touchdowns and points in a quarter en route to a 69-18 shellacking of UNC Pembroke (2-3) Saturday afternoon at Burke-Tarr Stadium. 

Carson-Newman picked off five passes for the fourth time in school history, tallied eight rushing touchdowns for the seventh time in school history and pounded out 35 points in the fourth quarter for the third time ever. 

"You're grateful for performances like this," Turner said. "We asked the kids before the game to play with a full heart. If you play with a full heart, you've got a chance for it to spill over and affect other people.  I thought we could have started a little faster off of some busted plays.  We have to learn to play that we don't give people anything.  We're getting better, but the great thing was to watch how people responded to other people in a game. It was a true football team celebrating."

All the while, the Eagles handed UNC Pembroke the worst defeat in the program's 12-year existence.  The 51-point margin of victory bests a 62-14 loss at the hands of North Alabama.  The Eagles' 69 points are the most the Braves have ever allowed as well. 

The ground swell was keyed by a 56-point second half.  Those 56 points came on just 29 plays as the Eagles picked off the school-record tying five passes, including a quartet in the fourth quarter.  The Eagles' average starting field position after halftime was the Braves 42. Carson-Newman scored on eight of its nine second half possessions and never punted.  All four of the Eagles' final possessions started from inside the UNC Pembroke 30 due to the interceptions. 

Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.), Damarkus Jones (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), Bernard Scott (Hollywood, Fla.), Ray Artybridge (Iva, S.C.) and Ja'Quan Smith were all a part of the record-setting pick party for the Eagles.

The five interceptions matched the program record set against North Greeneville (2015), Wingate (2003) and Western Oregon (2000). 

Fairell's pick was the 14th of his career, which moves into a tie for fifth on the all-time list with Jon Jon Simmons for career picks.  It was also the first pick six and defensive touchdown of Fairell's career.

"Ray came up with the big hit and made it easy for me," Fairell. "All of that goes to Ray, he made the great play, I was just able to score off of it.  When we're locked in and focused, we can be a great defense.  Coach Slade preached all week about playing together. Today we did that."

For a second straight week Carson-Newman put up more than 500 yards of total offense. The Eagles outgained the Braves 517-191 while piling up 397 yards on the ground.  The Eagles held a foe under 50 yards rushing for the first time since 2017.  Oddly enough the last time C-N did it was against UNC Pembroke.  That was on Nov. 11 that year, the Braves had 29 yards that day; Saturday the Eagles' limited them to 48 yards. 

The fourth quarter was especially dominant for the Eagles defensively (which probably shouldn't come as a surprise with a quartet of fourth quarter interceptions).  UNCP only had three yards of offense in the final frame.

"We made the right calls today," Turner said. "I'm proud of our defensive staff for how hard they worked to get our kids to understand UNCP's tendencies.  They played well and attacked the line of scrimmage well.  We had to take something away from a team that good, I'm thankful we did."

UNCP led off a methodical first half with a massive 18-play, 71-yard drive.  The Braves converted on a pair of fourth downs before Hunter Braswell pushed a 21-yard field goal through to give the Braves a 3-0 lead off a 9:32 opening drive. A total of 37 percent of the Braves' offensive output would come on that one possession. 

Carson-Newman wasted no time in responded.  Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) carried the ball five times for 58 yards to get C-N down to the four before Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) powered in from four yards away off left tackle to give C-N a 6-3 lead with 2:27 left in the first quarter after the hold on the PAT was bobbled. 

After the Eagles forced a punt, C-N navigated back down the field.  Troy Dendy (Laurens, S.C.) launched himself into the end zone after a 12-yard dive play to cap a 10-play, 72-yard drive with his third career score to give Carson-Newman a 13-3 lead into the locker room. 

Then the second half happened and chaos ensued. 

Carson-Newman scored all but one time it touched the football. 

"Wins are hard to come by and touchdowns are hard to come by," Turner said. "There was never a touchdown scored that was ho-hum. We were thankful to get to celebrate each and every one of them.  We had some kids make some great plays. We talked about being explosive, we were explosive today."

The Eagles and Braves traded touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half. Braxton Westfield (Simpsonville, S.C.) got into the end zone off a seven-yard slant for his fifth touchdown catch of the year.

The Braves countered with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Marcus McDonald. 

A one-yard QB sneak from Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) and a 56-yard jaunt by Dendy gave Carson-Newman a 34-10 lead with 2:54 to go in the third. 

C-N looked to have the game well in hand by that juncture, however, a mishandled pitch and a scoop-and-score by Jordan Howard made it a two-score game after a two-point conversion. 

The Eagles would leave no doubt with the school-record tying 35 fourth quarter points, all unanswered. 

Five different Eagles scored the touchdowns.  Demitri Saulsberry (St. Mary's, Ga.) and Sherron Jackson (Miami, Fla.) each tallied six-yard rushing scores.  Fairell had his 27-yard pick six, while Mister Hogue (Oakman, Ala.) and EJ Davis (Rustin, Fla.) grabbed their first career rushing scores off seven and three-yard rushes respectively. 

The 35 points match 35-point quarters against West Alabama in the 2009 playoffs (the second quarter) and the first quarter against Concord in the 2008 season opener.

"We got ourselves to the line of scrimmage, established ourselves and made a call we thought was best," Turner said. "To get in the ball game is one thing, it's another to get in and have success.  I loved their unselfishness."

Dendy led all rushers with a big-play Saturday.  He made the most of seven carries, gallivanting for 149 yards and two scores.  It registers as the most yards rushing by a freshman since Toot Johnson's (Rincon, Ga.) 137-yard day against Wingate last year. 

After a five-touch day a week ago, Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) returned to his bullish ways. The senior All-American plowed for 135 yards on 13 carries. 

The duo became the 77th pairing in school history to rush for 100 yards in one game. 

"I didn't want to be selfish," Wimbush said. "But last week I graded out on 37 of 37 plays.  That was a lot of blocking.  It's just how competitive I am.  That first drive and this game felt good."

A total of 12 Eagles carried the ball. 

"Today showed our physical conditioning and toughness," Turner said. "It also started to show our togetherness. That will continue to take more because every week someone is coming after you.  We have to continue to get better and work kinks out of things that might be a mistake."

Josh Sheridan had 35 yards on 10 carries for the Braves, Quay Threatt led Pembroke through the air with six catches for 43 yards.

Carson-Newman wraps up a three-game homestand Oct. 12 against Catawba. Kickoff with the Indians is set for 1 p.m. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at noon with the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.