JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman College football team will try to pick of their first South Atlantic Conference win of 2011 when they travel to Wingate University to take on the defending conference champion Bulldogs Saturday at Irwin Belk Stadium in Wingate, N.C. Kick off is 1:30 p.m.
The Eagles (2-2, 0-2 SAC) have lost back-to-back conference games against Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry and been held out of the end zone on offense for seven consecutive quarters of football. C-N's three points against Newberry was its lowest point total since a 37-3 loss to then SAC rival Presbyterian College in 2005.
"We've got to block and tackle better and do assignments better," Sparks said. "If we do that, we'll give ourselves a chance. Assignments and tackling with a whole lot of effort is a pretty good formula. We've done it in streaks, but we've got to be consistent in doing it."
Last season Carson-Newman dropped a heartbreaker in overtime against Wingate, losing 38-35 at Burke-Tarr Stadium. The win propelled Wingate to a conference championship and its first NCAA Division II playoff appearance in school history.
C-N will try to bounce back from back-to-back regular season losses for the first time since 2001. C-N is 0-2 in SAC play for the first time in the Sparks era.
In the backfield, the Eagles' sophomore running back Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.), sophomore Solomon Duanah (Johnson City, Tenn.) and freshman Andy Hibbett (Corryton, Tenn.) will all see action along with team rushing leader senior Nate Inman (Fitzgerald, Ga.) Inman has 55 carries for 317 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Sophomore Johnny Foster (Roebuck, S.C.) leads the Eagles offensive attack at quarterback. Foster is 21-of-35 passing this season for 361 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Foster has added 144 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
"We've had more intense practices and done more contact than we've done in the past," Sparks said. "They've responded to it. We've got kids that have some heart. We're going to be fine."
On defense, Alabama A&M transfer junior linebacker Larry Lumpkin (Grand Bay, Ala.) has made an immediate impact with 35 tackles, four coming for a loss. Senior defensive end and AFCA Good Works team member Byron Bell (Knoxville, Tenn.) leads the team with two sacks.
The Eagles will see a balanced Bulldogs attack after facing L-R's triple option and Newberry's spread in the last two weeks.
Wingate (2-2, 1-0 SAC) opened its season with consecutive losses to No. 4 Valdosta State and No. 13 Albany State. A 29-26 win over UNC-Pembroke on Sept. 17 was followed by a 35-31 victory over Brevard in the Bulldogs' SAC opener.
Wingate is led by senior quarterback Cody Haffly, who has already thrown for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns this season with just three picks. Haffly's favorite target is 6-foot-2 junior wideout Chris Bowden who has 26 catches for 351 yards and two TDs. 6-foot-3 freshman Bryan Caffrey has 23 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Wingate's defense is led by junior linebacker Jared Seele who has 29.5 tackles, four coming for a loss.
RADIO: The game will be broadcast locally on the Eagle Radio Network on the Flagship Station for Carson-Newman Football, WRJZ-AM 620 (Knoxville), and on WPFT-FM 106.3 (Sevierville) beginning at 1 p.m.