JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the eighth in an 11-part series breaking down each of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2016 season. This feature breaks down C-N's second-to-last home game and a visit from Wingate.
Following three straight losses to Wingate, the Eagles have now won three consecutive against the Bulldogs, the last two in shootout fashion.
Last year, the Bulldogs rattle off five straight wins to start the season and victories in six of their first seven. Then, following a 41-38 overtime loss in week eight to the Eagles in 2015, WU dropped four straight to end the year.
At the time of the team's meeting last year, the Bulldogs had the nation's best scoring defense and the sixth best defense in total offense. The 41 points the Eagles put up were the second most the Bulldogs allowed last year and the most at the time.
Much of that vaunted Bulldogs defense that only allowed 68 points in the first seven weeks of the 2015 campaign graduated.
Four of 11 starters return with at least two players lost along the line, in the linebacking corps and in the secondary. Of Wingate's top five tacklers, only defensive back Kameron Johnson is back. He tallied 81 stops while making three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
While the Bulldogs defense takes a hit, the offense returns every skill position player.
All-league running back and Harlon Hill Trophy nominee Lawrence Pittman returns after rushing for 1,227 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The man under center is also back. Kyle Johnson returns for his senior season after hurling 13 touchdowns against four interceptions. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 1,587 yards. He is also capable with his legs. Johnson was the Bulldogs' second-leading rusher behind Pittman.
Johnson's top targets return as well. All-SAC receiver Jordan Berry is back after catching 47 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns, as is Jody Fuller, who snagged 30 passes for 402 yards and a pair of scores.
The only downside for the Wingate offense is that the Bulldogs only return 60 percent of their offensive line. The Bulldogs will need to replace all-conference and Australian Football League signee Mathu Gibson and Orlando Colon.
The Better Know the Opponent series continues August 1 with Limestone.