JEFFERSON CITY- For a game that looked like it would be an offensive shoot-out with the way it began, Thursday's game between the Carson-Newman Eagles and Wingate Bulldogs was decided on a defensive stand on the goal line near the end.
Carson-Newman had a chance to put the ball into the end zone from the one yard line but the Bulldogs defense held late in the fourth quarter. Wingate would turn the stop into an eventual score to ice the game as the Bulldogs defeated the Eagles 33-24 at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
The visitors from North Carolina improve to 3-2, 2-0 in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). Carson-Newman falls to 2-2 and 1-2 after losing their second consecutive conference game. Wingate returns home to host Mars Hill at 1:30 next Saturday. The Eagles hit the road to play Catawba next week, also at 1:30.
It appeared that the Eagles were headed toward a two-point loss until Carson-Newman held the Bulldogs on a fourth down play late in the fourth quarter. On the very next play from scrimmage, Brandon Haywood found Jason Brown for a 60-yard strike that took the ball all the way down to the three yard line. C-N faced a fourth and one at the one but the Wingate defense answered the call as Josh Patch busted through the line to dump Tyron Douglas for a two-yard loss.
The Bulldogs took over on downs and picked up a number of first downs to try to run out the clock. Nestor Lantigua iced the game when he took off for a 54-yard touchdown run to seal the deal with just over a minute remaining to produce the 33-24 final.
Lantigua had a career game as he rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Robbie Nallenweg was 19-of-28 for 254 yards and a touchdown. His favorite receiver was Chris Bowden who was on the other end of nine passes for 146 yards. Wingate finished the game with 407 total yards of offense.
Haywood had 176 passing yards after going seven-for-14 through the air. The Eagles, who lead the conference in rushing yards, did not have a rusher go over the century mark as Douglas had 78 yards on 15 carries. C-N had 420 yards of total offense but were haunted by 11 penalties for 80 yards that killed a number of their drives. The Eagles were held to only 98 yards in the second half with 60 of them coming on one play.
The game did not start well for the Eagles as they fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Wingate struck as Lantigua scored from 19 yards out. Matthew Sierk's extra point was good. Carson-Newman recovered and tied the game when they marched 59 yards in a drive that took almost six minutes and was capped by Haywood's five-yard quarterback keeper. Curt Duncan's PAT tied the game at 7-7.
Carson-Newman would take a commanding 21-7 lead when Haywood scored again, this time from 21 yards out and Douglas popped in from five yards away. Both of Duncan's kicks were true. The Bulldogs wasted no time in cutting the lead in half as Nallenwag found Bowden wide open across the middle for a 75-yard score on the first play of the next drive.
Duncan booted a 35-yard field goal to push the lead back to 10 points at 24-14. Lantigua cut the lead to 24-20 when he scored on a one-yard play but the point after was missed. The only score of the third quarter came when Josh Covington completed a 10 play, 76-yard drive with a one yard score. The Eagles blocked the extra point to keep the score at 26-24 to set up the drama in the final quarter.