VIDEO: Ken Sparks Press Conference
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (0-1) hits the road for the first time in 2016 looking to improve on a 52-45 loss to No. 7 Humboldt State in week one.
The No. 17 Eagles travel to Raleigh, N.C. to tangle with Saint Augustine's (0-1) with a 1 p.m. kickoff from the George Williams Complex.
The Falcons are four years removed from their last winning season and are coming into this year off a 1-9 campaign. They lost their opener to No. 25 North Carolina A&T (FCS) 62-0.
The Falcons had their struggles offensively last year. SAU ranked in the bottom five in eight offensive categories. That includes being third from the bottom in total offense (200 yards per game) and fifth from the bottom in scoring (9.2 points per game). SAU scored 92 points in all of 2015. They scored 16 points in every first quarter for 2015. C-N had seven quarters last year and one already this year where it scored at least 20 points.
"We will have to have the maturity to handle that and we have to have the maturity to improve in some of the phases of our game from last week," head coach Ken Sparks said. "You are supposed to improve a lot from the first ballgame to the second ballgame, but that doesn't always just happen.
"We are playing at team, even though they played one ballgame, they played against a Division I team that (made the playoffs). They played against a really good football team and sometimes it's hard to evaluate what they did that as normal and what they are going to differently this week. There is still an awful lot of preparation and unknowns and so that is what we are up against this week."
SAU is led by quarterback DJ Johnson. The sophomore signal caller accounted for all but nine of the Falcons' 159 yards of total offense in the 62-0 loss to A&T.
He was 14-24 through the air for 77 yards. He also tossed two picks. Johnson was also effective rushing the ball, toting it 17 times for 68 yards. His favorite target was 6-5, 250-pound wide receiver Sam Boyd, whom he hit seven times for 40 yards.
"They are very talented in places," Sparks said. "They have some guys who can run and some guys that are huge. Their quarterback is really talented. He can run and throw and keep drives alive. He has capabilities."
Meanwhile, Carson-Newman is trying to take care of its own house. The Eagles were penalized a school-record 18 times for a school record 145 yards. C-N was called for holding four times, offsides or encroachment four times, two false starts, two delays of game, a pair of targeting penalties, a clip, a block in the back, an ineligible man down field and roughing the passer.
"You have to be really careful with it because you can make it an issue to where you start playing cautious," Sparks said. "Then there were a whole bunch of penalties like false starts and offside, and a couple of more penalties before the ball was snapped, that could have certainly be prevented. Pre-snap penalties are awful, because they are probably stupid on our behalf. Post-whistle penalties are stupid because that probably means you are not disciplined, but none of ours were that. A few were pre-snap, but no were post-snap. But a lot happened when the ball was in play."
Carson-Newman's offense certainly found fifth gear in a hurry. The Eagles tallied 464 yards rushing and 672 yards of total offense against Humboldt State, both are the top marks for week one for all Division II, the total offense figure is also the eighth highest total in school history.
C-N nearly had four, 100-yard rushers for the second time in school history. Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) led the way with 148 yards and two scores. Jamal Jones (Chattanooga, Tenn.) tallied 130 yards while quarterback Noah Suber (Asheville, N.C.) had 104 yards rushing.
Montavious Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.) missed out on the century mark with 82 yards.
We have three (running backs) that can play," Sparks said. "Keeping them well is going to be the secret. Boy, they will play hard and give an unbelievable effort. Did they block well? Not all the time. They led some guys run free at times. Did we grade out perfect? No. We missed the veer lane a couple of times. Overall, we don't have to worry about the effort form those three. They will give it."
The Eagles' lead the all-time series with SAU 2-0. Carson-Newman's last meeting with Saint Augustine's in 2007 saw quite a few records fall by the wayside. The Eagles limited the Falcons to -71 yards rushing on 30 carries aided by eight sacks (third most all-time) and 17 tackles for loss (also third most all-time). The Eagles also forced four fumbles (third all-time) on Sept. 15, 2007 against the Falcons. The 35 yards of total offense SAU gained that day are the fewest that the Eagles have ever allowed, as is the Falcons 0.7 yards of offense per play.
Saint Augustine's will try to become the first CIAA team to beat Carson-Newman in 15 years. The Eagles have won 11 straight games against CIAA competition. The Eagles last lost in 2001 to Winston-Salem State 27-16. C-N is 12-1 all-time against the league.
Saint Augustine's holds the distinction as the most decorated Division II athletics program, with a record 37 NCAA team titles and 265 individual titles. This also places them as the fourteenth-most productive athletics program across all three divisions. All of those championships have come in either men's indoor (13 team, 75 individual), women's indoor (6 team, 41 individual), men's outdoor (14 team, 105 individual), or women's outdoor (4 team, 44 individual) track and field. The football stadium is named for legendary track coach George Williams, who some would consider to be the Ken Sparks of the DIvision II track coaching world.
Kickoff from the George Williams Complex is set for 1 p.m. Coverage of the game will be available on the Eagle Sports Network on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live. Pregame programming begins at noon with the AEC Tailgate Show.