VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Derrck Evans Interview
VIDEO: Dorren Miller Interview
VIDEO: Sha'Heem Stupart Interview
VIDEO: Antonio Henderson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (2-0) overcame a sluggish start and scored on four straight second half possessions to thwart Saint Augustine's (0-2) 41-14 Saturday afternoon at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
The Eagles stay perfect against the Falcons all-time. C-N leads the series 4-0. Carson-Newman won its 13th consecutive game against CIAA competition, dating back to a 2001 loss to Winston-Salem State.
Carson-Newman found itself mired in the offensive doldrums early. The Eagles went three-and-out for their first three possessions before finally getting untracked on their fourth trip down the field.
"That was about as bad a way that we could have started a football game," head coach Mike Turner said. "But at the same time, we learned some things. We learned we can count on our defense. They had a great response and kept us ahead. We learned we have to be ready to play, and that's my fault. We have to start off faster. You've got to start fast and play fast, and that's not a light switch fix."
When the Eagles finally did put things together offensively, it did so effectively and efficiently.
C-N gauged the Falcons on their fourth possession. A six-play, 70-yard drive ended with Jared Dillingham's (Central, S.C.) second score of the season. The running back took a pitch around the left side of the line for a nine-yard score, capped by a Superman-esque dive into the end zone.
Following an SAU punt that pinned C-N inside its own 30, the Eagles quickly found the end zone again.
"We just kept showing them that we had confidence in them," Turner said. "They made the decision to suck this thing up, and get it done like they were supposed to do. They didn't say it was, 'poor old me' and this was going to be a bad day. They kept their promise to themselves. I'm proud of how they handled that adversity. I'm glad they ran into this early and figured out a way to fight out of it."
The Falcons countered that score with a lengthy drive of their own. C-N's defense had been hegemonic up until that point. However, Falcon quarterback DJ Johnson used his escapability to get out of some lengthy third-down situations before Josh Glisson capped the 11-play, 75-yard jaunt with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Both offenses sputtered for the rest of the half with C-N taking a 13-7 lead into the lockerroom.
However, once they returned for the second half, it was all Carson-Newman. The Eagles put up 264 yards of total offense after halftime while the defense forced a pair of turnovers.
"We want to be contenders and win a championship," Turner said. "We have to earn the right to do that. In the second half I felt that we earned that right."
C-N scored on its first four possessions of the half before winding the clock down to triple zeroes with the fifth.
After Carson-Newman's defense forced a turnover on downs for SAU on its first possession of the half, Evans weaved the Eagles down field and capped an eight-play, 63-yard possession with an eight-yard option keeper.
The Eagles followed that up with another big play to Miller. This time Evans hit him on an out route. The closest defender to Miller fell down and the senior wideout took advantage of the miscue with a 66-yard score.
Then, the Eagles' defense made some big plays happen. In a pressure situation, Falcon quarterback DJ Johnson fumbled away the football with Ross Pryor (Kingwood, Texas) baring down on him. The ball got kicked all the way back from near midfield to the SAU 16 where Ervin Nard (Waycross, Ga.) pounced on it.
With a short field, Evans found the end zone for the second time in three possessions with a one-yard QB sneak.
SAU drove deep into C-N territory on its next drive. However, Jaysen Cook-Calhoun dropped into zone coverage from his spot at defensive end to pick off a pass into the flat, returning it yards to the Eagles' 46-yard line.
That led to C-N's final score of the day, a four-yard trap play for South Alabama transfer Diantae Thomas (Dothan, Ala.).
SAU would add one more score with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard pass from DJ Johnson to Sam Boyd to set the final margin at 41-14.
The Eagles lived in the SAU backfield, making eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage with three sacks. Sha'Heem Stupart (Clovers, S.C.) and Antonio Henderson (Palmetto, Fla.) proved to be the biggest thorns in SAU's side.
Henderson made 11 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss, while Stupart tallied his eighth career performance with at least 10 tackles. He also made a career high three stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Evans was effective through the air. He completed 7-of-10 passes for 188 yards and two scores. Evans' 293.9 efficiency rating is good for the program's fourth best single-game rating in school history.
Evans also found the endzone twice on the ground. He rushed for a gross of 45 yards, but a net of 10 thanks to a fumble that resulted in a 35-yard loss.
The QB was one of nine rushers on the day for the Eagles who gained at least 10 yards. Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) had the high water mark with 44 yards on 10 carries.
Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) saw his streak of 100-yard rushing efforts come to a close at four games. Wimbush carried the ball twice for 31 yards.
Miller, who entered the game number one in the nation in yards per catch, snared two balls for 125 yards, only cementing himself at the top of that stat category. Darvia DuBose grabbed four passes for 27 yards.
SAU was led by Glisson and his 27 carries for 126 yards.
Johnson completed 19-of-30 passes for the Falcons for 218 yards and score. Boyd was his favorite target. Johnson threw his way 14 times, completing passes to him on seven occasions. Boyd had 94 yards worth of receptions and a score.
Lenwood Joyner also caught four passes for 64 yards.
The Eagles hit the road for the first time in 2017 with a jaunt to Monroe County, N.C. to take on Wingate. The contest will be the first night game in Irwin Belk Stadium history. Kickoff with the Bulldogs is set for 6 p.m. Pregame coverage starts at 5 on the Eagle Sports Network with the AEC Countdown to Kickoff on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.