VIDEO: Ken Sparks Interview
VIDEO: Lane Bloom Interview
VIDEO: Montel Presley Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Lenoir-Rhyne (2-3, 2-0 South Atlantic Conference) held Carson-Newman (2-3, 1-2 SAC) to its lowest offensive output of the season and used a last-minute field goal to power through to a fifth straight win over Carson-Newman.
L-R placekicker Hunter Haire connected on a 35-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining to cement a quintet of consecutive wins for the Bears over the Eagles. L-R becomes the first team ever to beat Carson-Newman on five consecutive occasions in Ken Sparks' tenure as head coach.
It marks the first time a team has beaten the Eagles five times in a row since Elon won seven straight against the Eagles from 1972-78.
Carson-Newman was averaging 560 yards of total offense entering the game. The Eagles' offense sputtered to a season-low 250 yards of offense. The Eagles have five halves of football this season where they gained more yards than they did in the entirety of Saturday's game.
"This was a lost opportunity," Carson-Newman head football coach Ken Sparks said. "We had so many opportunities to make things happen and to make plays that would make a difference. We had a hard time getting all three phases of the game working together. We wound up shooting ourselves in the foot a lot tonight. Our guys gave great effort today. There were so many times where if we would have executed a little bit better, we could have had some big plays."
L-R wasn't spectacular offensively, but the Bears made plays when they had to. The Bears only gained 294 yards of total offense, 113 of which came in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Redshirt freshman running back Nelson Brown was the bell cow for the Bears. The tailback rushed 35 times for an even 200 yards. Brown's 35 carries are the second most all-time by a Carson-Newman opponent.
Carson-Newman's defense made 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Phalen Booker's (Waveland, Miss.) made three stops behind the line of scrimmage. Lane Bloom (Knoxville, Tenn.) matched a career high with 13 stops. Montel Presley (Miami, Fla.) and Sha'Heem Stupart (Taylors, S.C.) each had 11. Bloom also made 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Presley's 11 stops are a career high for the freshman and the most by a C-N defensive lineman since Jarod Henderson had 11 against the Bears in the NCAA playoffs in 2013.
Travis Head led the Bears defense with seven tackles and a sack. Sherrod Williams had six tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
Carson-Newman started slow. The Eagles fumbled away their first possession, giving L-R the football inside the C-N five. Three plays later, Robbie Hicks plunged in on a two-yard play off tackle to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 8:21 left in the first.
After a C-N three-and-out, the Bears marched down the field in 13 plays, covering 82 yards. Nelson Brown powered into the end zone on an eight yard run up the gut to put L-R ahead by two scores.
C-N finally got its offense in gear on the next drive. C-N methodically moved down the field in 12 plays before Jones finally burst through a hole on the left side of the line on a draw play to score from 27 yards out with 10:58 left in the second.
Defenses dominated for the remainder of the half, with neither side getting inside the other's 40. However, the bigger blow came when Carson-Newman's starting quarterback Noah Suber (Asheville, Tenn.) was sidelined with an injury on the second to last series of the half.
Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) took over at quarterback and moved the Eagles near midfield on the final possession of the first half before time ran out.
L-R would get on the board first in the second half with a Haire field goal from 31 yards away. The kick with 8:42 left in the third pushed the Bears' lead back to two scores 17-7.
The Eagles would rely on opportunism to make headway into the lead. A Wimbush 38-yard punt return gave C-N a 21-yard field late in the third. Three plays later, Evans rode a QB sneak two yards into the end zone to bring the Eagles within a field goal.
Another bit of sudden change went the Eagles' way in the fourth. Stupart knocked a fumble free and Braxton Butler pounced on the loose pig skin to give the Eagles' the ball at the L-R 32. Five plays later, C-N's drive sputtered and Jonathan King (Knoxville, Tenn.) was able to drive home a 37-yard field goal, tying things at 17 with 7:36 to play.
The team's swapped punts before the Bears won a battle of field position to set up for Haire's game-winner.
Carson-Newman had a last-gasp drive, but Evans hurled an interception that sealed the game for the Bears.
C-N returns to action Saturday at Brevard. Kickoff 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 beginning with the AEC Tailgate Show at noon.