JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the seven in an 11-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2013 season. Today's feature breaks down the second oldest rivalry in the state of Tennessee, Carson-Newman versus Tusculum.
The thing to know about Tusculum is the same as it has been the last three years, Bo Cordell is one heck of a quarterback. The question is not whether he finishes in the all-time stat rankings for quarterbacks, but where. Entering his final collegiate campaign, Cordell is in pursuit of becoming the NCAA Division II's all-time leading passer. With 12,345 yards, he already ranks seventh in Division II history and already owns both the South Atlantic Conference and Tusculum records. He needs 2,388 passing yards to break the Division II record, held by Zach Amedro of West Liberty (14,733 from 2007-10).
The preseason All-SAC first team quarterback has a bevy of options to throw to. Unfortunately, the leading receiver doesn't return. Xzanvion Smith was third in the league last year with 69 grabs for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns. He had seven catches for 121 yards in the meeting with C-N last year.
Instead, Cordell will have to rely on Justin Houston and Ken Funnye, who combined for six touchdowns.
Tusculum does have questions at running back. The leading returning rusher is Cordell, who is an adept scrambler with 165 yards last year (103 of those came in the loss to Carson-Newman).
While the Tusculum offense can keep pace with most teams, the Pioneer defense will need to make strides to make that more possible. While the Pioneers ranked 17th nationally in total offense, the defense was fourth from the bottom in total defense nationally (499 yards per game) and second to last in rushing defense (278 yards per game).
Fortunately for 15-year head coach Frankie DeBusk, the Pioneers return nine starters, including preseason all-conference first team linebacker Brian Alexander. Alexander made 95 tackles with nine stops for loss and four sacks last year. He had 12 tackles against the Eagles last year.
Defensive back Keyton Becton joins Alexander as Pioneer defenders appearing on the preseason all-conference team. Becton made three picks last season to go along with 12 pass breakups.
Carson-Newman leads the all-time series 32-9-2, with games of late being scorefests. The last six games have seen the winning side score no less than five touchdowns. Carson-Newman has cracked 60 points on three occasions during that span.
C-N has won four straight in the series dating back to a 45-44 Tusculum win in 2008. Last year's 66-36 win for C-N marked a first ever for the program. With running backs Brandon Baker and Andy Hibbett, as well as quarterback Brandon Haywood all cresting 150 yards, it was the first time in school history that C-N's vaunted veer option attack had a trio of 150-yard rushers.
The next installment of the Better Know an Opponent series features North Greenville and will be available Monday morning.