VIDEO: Mike Turner Press Conference
VIDEO: Week five Catawba Highlights
VIDEO: 2016 Limestone Highlights
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (3-2, 1-2 South Atlantic Conference) will take aim at its first road win in 364 days when it travels to Limestone (3-2, 2-0 SAC) for a 6 p.m. kick with the Saints from The Reservation, Saturday.
Carson-Newman has lost four straight games away from Burke-Tarr Stadium (Wingate this year, Tusculum, North Greenville and Newberry in 2016) after beating Brevard 42-0 on Oct. 8, 2016.
The last time the Eagles' suffered four straight road defeats was a five-game stretch spanning the 2011 and 2012 seasons with losses in 2011 at Lenoir-Rhyne, Wingate, North Greenville, Mars Hill and then Newberry to start the 2012 season. The Eagles snapped the five-game skid with a resounding 42-7 thumping of Catawba.
"We have to know how we travel, it's a different situation with a bunch of young kids," head coach Mike Turner said. "Early this season we traveled overnight to Wingate the distance will be similar to that on Saturday. The difference is that we will sleep in our own bed and then will get up and have breakfast together around 9:30 a.m. and then will have meetings over here. Then we will get on the road and get a pre-game meal along the way, then we'll get there in time to get dressed and play."
The Eagles will turn once again to a defense that is on pace for its best season in a decade. The Eagles have the reigning SAC Defensive Player of the Week in Montel Presley (Bushnell, Fla.) after his nine tackle, 2.5 tackle for loss, one sack performance against No. 23 Catawba.
Furthermore, Carson-Newman is the only school in the South Atlantic Conference with three players ranked in the top 10 for the league in tackles for loss. Jaysen Cook-Calhoun (Hoover, Ala.), Sha'Heem Stupart (Taylors, S.C.) and Jarvis Green (Oviedo, Fla.) represent the Eagles on the list with six, five and five, respectively. The Eagles lead the SAC with 7.9 tackles for loss per game. Limestone ranks sixth in the SAC and 109 in the nation, allowing 7.4 TFL a game.
Carson-Newman will need that continued pressure against Limestone's fleet-of-foot quarterback Ivan Corbin. The preseason first team All-SAC quarterback has tossed for 892 yards and nine scores to go along with 178 yards rushing and five more touchdowns on the ground.
His top target is the reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Week D'Anta Fleming. Fleming is coming off an eight-catch, four-score, 200-yard performance in an overtime win over Mars Hill. For the season, he has 366 yards receiving and seven scores.
"He's speed, his catching ability, he'll go up and make some catches," Turner said. "He's a competitor and you honor those kind of guys, you respect them. We've got to be sound in coverage, we got to make sure that we have underneath and over the top coverage on him. The main thing is getting the pass rush."
The Saints have another impeccable pass catcher in Vyncint Smith. He's snared 26 passes for 394 yards but has just made it into the end zone once.
Those two wide receivers have been instrumental in the Saints' cardiac tendencies for 2017. All three of Limestone's wins have been in overtime and resulted from the Saints making a comeback.
"That's impressive to have that much resolve about you and to have that much belief," Turner said. "I've watched them in overtime and they have scored on either the first or second snap. Mike (Furrey) has them playing right now with high intensity and I'm sure that it will be a different kind of crowd of there with it being homecoming on Saturday. We will have to be ready to play."
Saturday is Limestone's homecoming game. The Eagles have some recent history of spoiling foes' homecomings. The Eagles have beaten seven of the last eight teams they've played as the visitor on homecoming. Last year's loss at Newberry is the lone blemish in that time span.
Turner believes that the Eagles took a major step forward with last Saturday's triumph over Catawba.
"We've had great effort in five games," Turner said. "We've had great excitement in five games and we've faced some adversity in two of those games. Saturday was a kind of we finally got it all together kind of game. We did well in the third quarter, I like for us to finish better and we are addressing that about finishing in the fourth quarter. Man, do I like the way that they are playing, the way that they are playing together as a group and the way they back each other as a group."
Dillingham rushed for a career high 145 yards, while Saulsberry more than doubled his overall season rushing total with 86 yards on the ground.
"That is a guy that is consistent," Turner said of Saulsberry. "He is not world class speed by any means but he is world class heart. He is the kind of kid that is great to be on this football team, he is a guy that people love to be around and a guy that you know you can depend on. Demitri Saulsberry is never going to get you beat. To watch him break some runs against Newberry and Catawba was just awesome for our kids."
The Eagles have rolled up at least 540 yards of total offense in the brief, two-game series with the Saints.
"We read them the verse in Hebrews, were it talks about believing in things that are unseen. Sometimes you're in control of a ball game and then something happens and you don't have control of the ball game. If you're going to believe what you say you are, then you got to know that there is something there beyond that part of it. I was very proud of our kids because I thought that they played with a vision on Saturday. It's a vision I hope we continue to play with for the rest of the year."
Kickoff between the Eagles and Saints is set for 6 p.m. Saturday. Coverage of the contest is available on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 5 with the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com