VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Phillip McDowell Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (5-2, 3-2 South Atlantic Conference) kept its hopes for an NCAA playoff game alive by picking off three passes and downing Newberry (3-5, 3-3 SAC) 24-21 on Homecoming in a wire-to-wire win at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
For just the second time in Mike Turner's 29 games as head coach, Carson-Newman won a game in which it was outgained. Newberry had a 374-305 yard advantage in total offense. It's the first time Carson-Newman has been outgained by more than 60 yards and won since 2005 when West Georgia outgained Carson-Newman 322-233 and C-N won 14-10.
"I told our kids that a win is a great thing because they are so hard to come by," Carson-Newman head football coach Mike Turner said. "There were things we absolutely could have done better on offense, on defense and in the kicking game, there's no question. In spite of that, we definitely played hard, I don't have any problems with their effort. We just weren't as sharp at executing as we needed to be. However, I'm grateful for this win and we certainly appreciate it."
Carson-Newman bent but didn't break defensively and won the turnover battle by two against the Wolves, a fight Newberry hadn't lost this season until Saturday. Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.) grabbed a pair of interceptions for the second time in his career and the first since his freshman season.
"Coach Slade wanted us to challenge their receivers," Fairell said. "Once we started challenging them, we were able to dial back some of their big plays and make some big plays of our own."
He moved into sole possession of fourth place on the school's all-time picks list and has 17 INTs for his career.
Bernard Scott (Hollywood, Fla.) grabbed his second pick of the year to set up an early second half score. The Wolves had thrown three interceptions all year coming into the game. They were top five in the country for fewest picks thrown before the Eagles doubled that amount.
"It's what's up front that counts," Turner said. "They definitely put some pressure on. However, our secondary didn't let their eyes full them. Desmond and the rest of those guys are ball hawking. I'm thrilled for what they did today."
Carson-Newman methodically marched down the field on its opening possession. However, the Eagles' 12-play, 52-yard jaunt down the field stalled out after penalties when C-N had advanced the ball down to the Wolves 12. Nate Craft (Salem, Va.) boomed a 42-yard field goal through the uprights to give C-N a 3-0 edge 6:34 into the contest.
"I was proud we got off to the start that we got off to," Turner said. "We moved the football and got points on the board on the first drive. We stalled in the second quarter and had some breakdowns. I hope these kids enjoy this win, we just have to enjoy it knowing that we've got to go back to work Monday."
TWO! @d2_fairell comes up with his second pick of the day to give the Eagles the ball back.— Carson-Newman Athletics (@CNathletics) October 26, 2019
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C-N forced Newberry off the field with a turnover on downs at the Eagles 43 and Carson-Newman responded.
Carson-Newman powered down the field on an eight-play, 57-yard drive. Sherron Jackson (Miami, Fla.) capped the possession untouched off right tackle to push C-N a 10-0 lead with 1:25 to play in the first quarter.
C-N had a chance to further that lead early in the second quarter. Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.) snagged his 16th career pick to give C-N the ball at the Newberry 28. However, the Eagles went three-and-out and Craft missed a 43-yard field goal wide to the left.
The teams exchanged punts before Newberry got some assistance on its second possession of the second quarter.
C-N had stalled a drive at the Newberry 40, however, Darius Williams (St. Petersburg, Fla.) was ejected for targeting extending the drive. Newberry took advantage of the miscue and finished a 13-play, 86-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Colton Bailey to tightend Austin Gordon for his fourth receiving touchdown of the season.
Newberry had a shot at a two-for-one with the late first half score and the reception of the second half kickoff, but Scott intercepted Bailey on the third play of the third period and returned it down to the Newberry seven.
Two plays later, Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) plunged into the end zone from four yards out to put C-N back up two scores with 13:04 to play in the third.
The teams traded punts with Carson-Newman pinning the Wolves at their own 14 with 7:26 to go in the third. With Dre Harris into the game at quarterback. The sophomore from Greenville, S.C. navigated Newberry on a 16-play 76-yard drive that ultimately stalled at the C-N 22. Newberry had to settle for a Shea Rodgers 39-yard field goal that brought the Wolves back within a touchdown, 17-10, with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
TOUCHDOWN! @toot_johnson sprints along the right sideline for 28 yards and six.— Carson-Newman Athletics (@CNathletics) October 26, 2019
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Carson-Newman would counter immediately. Ray Artybridge brought the ensuing kickoff out to the Eagles' 48 yard line. Six plays later, Toot Johnson (Rincon, Ga.) raced in on a 28-yard dive play to give the Eagles' a two touchdown advantage with 12:28 to play in the game.
Johnson's 28-yard jaunt was the Eagles' lone play longer than 20 yards on the game. That goes down as a season low. It's also the first time in four tries that Carson-Newman has won a game without a rush of at least 50 yards or longer. The Eagles are 14-1 over their last 15 games when tallying at least one rushing play longer than 50 yards and were 0-4 when going without one prior to Saturday's game.
However, in spite of the two score deficit, Newberry wouldn't go quietly into the night. Newberry countered with a Rodgers field goal, his second of the half, with 8:10 left in the contest. However, it capped another lengthy drive that stalled in C-N territory. The Wolves put together an 11-play, 53-yard jaunt before two negative plays put the Wolves in a third-and-17 situation that Harris couldn't get the Wolves out of.
Carson-Newman punted away its next possession, giving the ball back to Newberry with 6:08 to play. On the second play of the drive, Harris lobbed a jump ball up the left sideline. Fairell met it at the apex to seize his second pick.
While Carson-Newman's ensuing possession didn't result in points, the Eagles took 4:01 off the clock and turned it over on downs at the Newberry 31.
The Wolves would make things interesting when Harris called his own number with a four-yard score. The ensuing two-point conversion chopped the lead down to 24-21 with 28 seconds left.
The Eagles erased all doubt when Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) seized the ensuing onside kick. Three kneel downs later, Carson-Newman picked up the Homecoming victory 24-21.
Evans led Carson-Newman offensively with 80 yards rushing on 14 carries. He was one of four ball carries to tally at least 50 yards rushing.
Wimbush had 56 hard yards on 13 carries. With the effort, he moved past Tyrone Westmoreland and into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time rushing yards list with 3,389 yards.
Demitri Saulsberry (St. Mary's, Ga.) added in 55 yards on nine carries, while Johnson picked up 53 yards on seven totes.
Evans was 4-for-11 through the air for 42 yards. Korey Waters (Bradenton, Fla.) grabbed his first passes of the season to lead C-N through the air. He had two catches for 23 yards.
Harris was dynamic in the second half for the Wolves. He was 11-for-19 aerially for 109 yards. He also ran the ball nine times for 44 yards.
Carson-Newman kept reigning national player of the week Chance Walker in check. He had 95 yards on 20 carries. Deshun Kitchings led Newberry's receiving corps with six catches for 75 yards. He was targeted 10 times.
Rondrow Peebles (Knoxville, Tenn.) turned in his third double-digit tackle performance of the season with 11 stops. He added in a tackle for loss. Wycleff Phanor (Naples, Fla.) also had a busy day, tallying 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Braylen English had the high-water mark for the Newberry defense with 14 stops.
"We planned for a lot of things that we didn't get to today," Turner said. "There was a good chunk of the game plan that stayed on the clipboard based on what they were giving us. Hopefully that will help us down the road. We just didn't execute from all positions like we wanted to."
Carson-Newman hits the road for two straight with a jaunt to Mars Hill to start the month of November. Kickoff from Meares Stadium is slotted 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.