Scouting Report: Carson-Newman vs. North Alabama
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — For the sixth time in school
history, the Caron-Newman football team is set to meet North
Alabama in the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
The 10th-ranked Eagles (10-2) and fifth-ranked Lions (11-1) will square off in the quarterfinals on Saturday with the winner advancing to the semifinals on Dec. 5. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala.
C-N has struggled to come away from Florence with wins, as it is 0-8 all-time at Braly Stadium. The Eagles are 0-5 in the venue against North Alabama and they also lost three Division II national championship games in Florence. C-N is 1-4 all-time in the playoffs against the Lions, with their lone win coming in the first round of the 1997 playoffs (21-7).
C-N and North Alabama met during the regular season, with the Lions claiming a 31-14 victory.
How they made it to the quarterfinals:
C-N opened postseason play last week with a 59-41 victory over West Alabama in the second round of the playoffs. The win was C-N’s 10th-straight after losing the first two contests of the season
The Eagles stormed out to a 49-14 lead in the contest, but the Tigers battled back to score the next 27 points to pull to within 49-41.
However, the Eagles answered with two lengthy scoring drives that chewed up more than 10 minutes of clock to seal the win and advance to the Division II quarterfinals for the eighth time in the Ken Sparks era.
The Eagles piled up 591 yards of total offense in the win, including 383 yards on the ground. Senior quarterback Alex Good (Greensboro, N.C.) led the way with 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns and 208 yards passing and three scores.
North Alabama hosted Arkansas Tech last Saturday in the second round. The Lions built a 27-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and held off a late Wonder Boys rally to claim a 41-28 lead.
The win moved North Alabama into the quarterfinals for a fifth straight season.
The Lions amassed 480 yards of offense, including 341 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Harrison Beck, who is a Harlon Hill Trophy candidate.
The Eagles have been one of the most productive teams in the nation on offense in their last four games, gaining 2,649 yards for an average of 662.25 yards per game.
For the season, C-N ranks first nationally in rushing offense (356.42 yards per game), fourth in total offense (498) and eighth in scoring offense (40.5).
The Eagles have gained more than 500 yards of offense six times this season, including a school-record 803 yards against Tusculum in their season finale on Nov. 7.
Leading the way for C-N this season has been a pair of All-Region Super 2 performers. Senior running back Buck Wakefield (Drummonds, Tenn.), a first team selection, has rushed for 1,236 yards and 16 touchdowns in just nine games this season.
Good, a second team All-Region Super 2 selection, has thrown for 1,660 yards and 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He has also rushed for 1,138 yards and 13 touchdowns.
North Alabama ranks right at the top with C-N in terms of offense. The Lions are 18th nationally in total offense, averaging 432.92 yards per game.
North Alabama has done most of its damage this season through the air, as it is seventh in the nation in passing offense with an average of 318.75 yards per game.
The Lions are also fourth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 41 points per game.
Beck has done a stellar job under center for North Alabama this season. The senior signal caller has completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,542 yards, 30 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Beck has a trio of dangerous wide receivers to throw to in juniors T.J. Porter and Mico McSwain and senior Preston Parker. Porter leads the team in receptions with 64 for 732 yards and seven touchdowns, while McSwain has 890 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Parker has piled up 746 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
Despite giving up a season-high 41 points last week to West Alabama, the Eagles continue to make plays when it counts on defense.
C-N has forced 34 turnovers this season, including five last week against the Tigers that led to 24 points. The Eagles are in a tie for eighth in the nation in turnover margin (1.08) with North Alabama and Grand Valley State.
The Eagles also shut out West Alabama in the first quarter, allowing C-N’s offense to build a 21-0 lead.
Senior linebacker Brian Brown (Hartwell, Ga.) and sophomore defensive end Zeke Andrews (Eastman, Ga.), both second team All-Region Super 2 selections, have both had solid seasons for C-N.
Brown has recorded 72 tackles and two sacks this season. He had an interception and a fumble recovery last week against West Alabama.
Andrews leads the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (6.5). He has recorded 35 tackles and three forced fumbles in 12 games this season.
North Alabama is giving up 306 yards per game and 16.58 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally.
The Lions have given up 14 points or less six times this season, including one shutout.
North Alabama placed five players on the All-Region Super 2 squads, including first team selections Montrell Craft, Michael Johnson and Jason Tate.
Craft, a senior defensive lineman, has tallied 59 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.
Johnson, a senior linebacker, leads the team in tackles (102), tackles for loss (14.5) and forced fumbles (four).
Tate, a senior cornerback, has been a force in North Alabama’s secondary as he has recorded 37 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups.