VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Dorren Miller Interview
VIDEO: Sha'Heem Stupart Interview
VIDEO: Derrick Evans Interview
VIDEO: Temoris Coats Interview
HICKORY, N,C, - Carson-Newman (7-3, 5-2 South Atlantic Conference) quarterback Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) matched the program's single-game rushing touchdown record and the Eagles used a hegemonic defense to overwhelm Lenoir-Rhyne 42-28 Saturday afternoon at a rain-soaked Moretz Stadium.
Evans pounded the ball into the end zone five times, on rushes of 76, five, two, one and one yards to get to the school record. He matches Buck Wakefield in 2009 against Tusculum and Kenneth Tyson from 1987 against Elon for top overall mark.
"He had great efforts on the field today," head coach Mike Turner said of his sophomore QB. "We just had a couple bad exchanges there that could have changed that score in the first half without those. But he's a competitor, he's exciting, he's fun to be around. Like I said before, as soon as we can get him going in that football IQ and keep him improving as a leader and a field general then he's going to be a complete guy. But he's exciting and man what a great young'n."
Evans was also effective through the air, he completed 12-of-15 passes for 149 yards. He tallied his second career 100-yard day on the ground with 19 rushes for 108 yards.
His top target was Dorren Miller (Roswell, Ga.) who established some records of his own. Miller became the third C-N wide receiver, joining Anthony Eubanks and TraShaun Ward with eight catches in a game since 1980. He hauled in eight balls in moist weather for 102 yards.
Miller now sits at 796 yards receiving for the year, the ninth most receiving yards for a single-season in C-N football history.
With the Eagles' victory, Carson-Newman snaps a five-game losing streak to Lenoir-Rhyne, beating the Bears for the first time since 2012. The win in Hickory is Carson-Newman's first since 2009.
"I think for those few seniors we have who have not beaten Lenoir-Rhyne, this is a mighty sweet win for them," Turner said "I hope we can start having some win-streaks at Carson-Newman and getting our program like we want it to be—a program of respect, and a program that's going to be a tough-minded offense and defense—and I think we're working in that direction."
Carson-Newman dominated the stats sheet in the first half, but it was Lenoir-Rhyne who had the lead on the Eagles at the halftime break. It marked the first time this season that Carson-Newman trailed at halftime.
The Eagles leapt out to an early lead thanks to the longest rushing play of the season for the Eagles. Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) took an option keeper 76 yards around the right side of the line to the house to give C-N a 7-0 lead 1:03 into the game.
Lenoir-Rhyne returned the ensuing kickoff inside the Eagles' 40, but Carson-Newman's defense stiffened and forced Chase Allbaugh to boot a 39-yard field goal. He connected to make it 7-3 with 11:19 left in the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, Carson-Newman fumbled away its third possession of the half inside its own 10.
However, the Eagles' defense won another battle with three straight tackles for loss to set up another Allbaugh field goal. The placekicker connected from 26 yards out to pull L-R within one.
The Eagles and Bears exchanged fumbles on their next two possessions. However, it was the Eagles who came away with the points off turnovers. Jared Dillingham (Central, S.C.) blasted in from 25 yards away on a trap over the right side of the line to push the Eagles' lead to 14-6.
The Bears got big plays to take a lead into the halftime lockerroom.
With Carson-Newman again pinned inside its own 10, Kyle Duggar returned a punt 38 yards for a score, then, two drives later, Lenoir-Rhyne running back Nelson Brown burst up the middle of the field for an 86-yard run.
The tote was the longest C-N had given up since Roderick Jones went 83 yards to the house for Shorter. That was 50 games and five seasons ago.
Both teams' big plays influenced the first half. If you took away the Eagles' two touchdowns, Carson-Newman only had 107 yards of offense in the first stanza on 29 plays. In the same vein, discounting for Brown's run, L-R only had 47 yards of total offense.
Then the Eagles broke through in the second half. Carson-Newman scored on its first four possessions of the frame while limiting Lenoir-Rhyne to a trio of three-and-outs.
Carson-Newman got the second half started by forcing the Bears off the field with a three-and-out.
C-N followed that up by marching 55 yards in 11 plays for Evans to grab his second score on a naked QB bootleg that he stretched to the left pylon for a five-yard rushing touchdown.
That gave C-N the lead back at 21-20 before L-R pounded out its lone sustained drive of the game. The Bears found the end zone after nine plays and 74 yards on a run up the middle for Brown.
However, the Eagles then rattled off 21 unanswered to win it running away.
Evans brought the Eagles even with 13:45 to play on a one-yard QB sneak, then gave C-N the lead with 9:12 to go following a seven-play, 61 yard drive with another one-yard run.
The Eagles put the exclamation mark on the game with an eight-play, 50-yard drive that ended in Evans' record-tying touchdown and 3:28 on the fourth quarter clock.
"That's back-to-the-wall business. It was embarrassing at times in the first half, because we were in position. Gosh the defense turned the ball over to us and we turn right around and turn the ball back over," Turner said. "Those kids know what to do, they know how to do it. It's the tenth game of the year. One of the things in this offense, if you run an option offense, you'd better know how to take care of the football. We've done a good job of that most of the year throughout the year. Today it I guess we just laid it on the ground too many times, but we took care of it in the second half and that's when it counted."
Carson-Newman rallied from a touchdown down in the fourth quarter for the first time since the Eagles' last win in Hickory – 2009. Carson-Newman entered the fourth quarter of that game down 13-3 before rallying for a 17-13 win. Saturday's action was decidedly less dramatic.
Aside from Brown's 86-yard run for L-R, the Bears finished with 121 yards of total offense. The Eagles made 16 tackles in the Bears backfield.
"They're explosive at the line of scrimmage. I mean, I love those kids and I love the way they get after it and how hard they play," Turner said. "The guys behind them do the same thing, play the same way. And then our linebackers, wow, they'll fly around and get you. Boy, our defense is rocking along right now and playing exciting. We're to the point now that it's not a surprise, they expect to play that way. That's Carson-Newman football—that's the way it's supposed to be."
Sha'Heem Stupart finished with seven tackles. That makes him the seventh man in Carson-Newman football history with more than 300 tackles in a career. He sits with 303 entering the final week of the regular season.
Kyle Duggar had an absurd game defensively for Lenoir-Rhyne with 18 tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He also had the 38-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Carson-Newman outgained L-R 418-207 and outrushed the Bears for the first time since 2014 269-126.
L-R QB Jarrod Kellar was 8-for-19 through the air for 81 yards.
Brown had 126 yards rushing on 22 carries.
The Eagles close out the regular season at home on Saturday against UNC Pembroke. Kickoff with the Braves 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) and online at cneagles.com/live.