Sparks at 297 career wins as Braves visit for homecoming
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman College football team still has a lot to play for Saturday when they welcome the University of North-Carolina-Pembroke Braves to Burke-Tarr Stadium Saturday.
The Braves (5-2) nearly shut out the Eagles last season, beating C-N 30-7 in Pembroke, N.C. This will be the third consecutive meeting for C-N and UNCP. The series is tied 1-1. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
This year, it's the Eagles (3-4) who can be spoilers as the UNC Pembroke battles for a playoff spot over the last four games of the season. With the chance to finish strong with a 4-0 run against some of the top competition in the region and South Atlantic Conference still on the table, Sparks refuses to take his focus off this week's game.
"I'm not looking past Saturday," C-N head coach Ken Sparks said. "We need to live every minute and max it out. We don't know what tomorrow holds so let's do the best we can today. Let's get some satisfaction out of life knowing that we're going with all we've got, that we're not backing off."
If Carson-Newman is able to get the satisfaction of a win over the Braves, it will be well-earned. UNC Pembroke is an offensive powerhouse this season, rolling up more than 520 yards and nearly 42 points per game. The Braves are ranked No. 4 in the NCAA Division II in total offense, No. 19 in passing offense, No. 21 in rushing offense, No. 8 in scoring offense and No. 9 in red-zone offense.
"They're statistics are unbelievable," Sparks said. "They're tough defensively and we've got to get the job done."
The Eagles' strength this season is passing defense and they're ranked 10th in the country. They'll face off with one of the most prolific passers in the nation, UNCP's Luke Charles. Charles, just a sophomore, is ranked ninth in the country in passing yards per game (285.57) and seventh in total passing yards (1,999). Charles has tossed 18 TDs with just five interceptions.
To make the Braves even more dangerous they have one of the best running backs in the country, senior Travis Daniels. Daniels is the No. 4 running back in D-II with 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns in just seven games, averaging 5.8 yards per touch. Daniels protects the ball as well, losing just one fumble in 185 carries.
Junior quarterback Brandon Haywood (Rockmart, Ga.) will start his third consecutive game for the Eagles.
Though C-N lost 34-27 last week to North Greenville, Haywood put in another effective performance behind center for Carson-Newman, rushing and throwing for two touchdowns while helping the Eagles roll up 352 yards of total offense.
Senior running back Nate Inman (Fitzgerald, Ga.) begins his final four games as a Carson-Newman Eagle. Inman is 421 yards away from recording his second-straight 1,000 yard season and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Inman and junior wide receiver Patrick Miller (Sevierville, Tenn.) are the only healthy skill-position starters left from the opening day roster.
Sophomore Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.) has performed exceptionally well since taking over for injured junior Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.). Douglas has topped 100 yards rushing for two consecutive weeks, carrying the ball 17 times for 156 yards and a touchdown last week against the Crusaders.
On defense, the Eagles continue to be led by senior defensive end Zeke Andrews (Eastman, Ga.), junior linebacker Larry Lumpkin (Grand Bay, Ala.) and sophomore linebacker Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.). A whopping 10 of Andrews' 29 tackles have come for a loss this season. Andrews has 4.5 sacks, four QB hurries and one forced fumble. He spent much of last week in the NGU backfield, recovering a fumble and recording a sack in the Eagles' loss. Lumpkin leads the team with 57 tackles, 5.5 coming for loss, half a sack and two QB hurries. Coleman has gotten the job done all over the field, recording 36 tackles, five for a loss, half a sack, one interception, two pass break-ups and one QB hurry.
RADIO INFORMATION: The game will be broadcast locally on the Flagship Station for Carson-Newman Football, WRJZ-AM 620 (Knoxville) and on WPFT-FM 106.3 (Sevierville). Coverage begins on the Eagle Radio Network at 2:30 p.m.