Carson-Newman opens playoffs with rematch against Newberry

Carson-Newman opens playoffs with rematch against Newberry

Ken Sparks Press conference

Carson-Newman Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 18 Carson-Newman (9-2) begins play in the NCAA playoffs by taking on a team that it knocked off two weeks ago en route to securing a spot in postseason play. 

No. 25 Newberry (9-2) makes the trek to Mossy Creek after falling to C-N 52-31 on Nov. 9. 

The matchup is the first between the teams in the playoffs.  Carson-Newman is making its 25th playoff appearance, its 24th under Ken Sparks and its 14th as a member of NCAA Division II.

In the previous meeting, the Eagles scored on their first five possessions of the game to build a 35-0 lead they would not relinquish thanks to five turnovers.  However, Newberry did outscore C-N 31-27 over the final three quarters of the game.

Eagles' quarterback De'Andre Thomas (Milledgeville, Ga.) was impressive in the game against the Wolves as he went 11-for-17 for 200 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.) led the C-N ground game with 140 yards and two scores on 10 carries. The Eagles rushed for 297 yards in the game.

"I don't know how the teams will respond compared to the first time," Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said. "But we better forget about it quick, because it doesn't matter.  Whether we have a psychological edge or they have a psychological edge because of that, it doesn't matter."

The Wolves were paced by quarterback Raleigh Yeldell (Johnston, SC) who threw for 161 yards on 13-of-26 passing and ran 20 times for 101 yards and two scores. He spread his passes around well, throwing to 10 different receivers who were led by Jason Livingston (Conway, SC) who had five for 56 yards and a touchdown. Livingston had 255 all-purpose yards as he added 153 yards on kick returns and 49 on returning punts.  Carson-Newman limited Corey Washington, the nation's leader in touchdown receptions, to three catches for 38 yards. 

Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.) anchored the Eagles' defense with 15 tackles – his fourth straight game with more than 13 - one fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. Jonathan Sites (Hendersonville, Tenn.) had 13 tackles and Eien Jacob (Jeanerette, La.) had two interceptions and two pass break-ups.

While Sparks said the Eagles do have an uphill climb because of how fired up Newberry will be for the game, C-N does have an advantage in preparation.

"The preparation wasn't near as hard as gaining ten weeks of stats to figure out tendencies because we just finished doing that two weeks ago so it's a lot easier to update it," Sparks said. "But there are a lot more disadvantages.  They know a lot more about us. They won't likely have any adjustment problems getting ready for what we do."

Saturday's game with Newberry marks the 18th NCAA Division II playoff game played in Jefferson City. The Eagles are 16-1 in playoff games played within the friendly confines of Burke-Tarr Stadium. C-N has outscored its opposition in those home playoff contests 572-383, or an average of 33.63-22.52.

The only loss at Burke-Tarr in the playoffs came in 1997 in the semifinals when the Eagles lost to Northern Colorado 30-29. When you factor in Carson-Newman's NAIA playoff experience, this will be the 35th postseason contest played at Mossy Creek. In the NAIA days, the Eagles were 14-2-1 in playoff games held in Jeff City, making Carson-Newman a combined 30-3-1 in postseason contests played in either the old or new Burke-Tarr stadiums.

"This season has not been an easy journey," Sparks said. "But then again, they say that nothing good comes easy.  I'm grateful to still be coaching this time of year to be one of the 24 schools still playing."

Saturday's game will be broadcast on the Eagle Sports Network.  Pregame coverage begins one hour prior to kickoff with the Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville) and online at  A free high definition stream will be available for the game at the aforementioned web address.

For tickets, call 865-471-3396.



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