VIDEO: Mike Turner Presser
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Scoreboard watching may be a thing for Carson-Newman (7-3) as it wraps up its regular season home schedule Saturday afternoon at 1 against UNC Pembroke (2-7) at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
The Eagles sit in eighth in the final region rankings of the year, that's one spot out of the playoffs.
"We are excited to be who we are at this time of year," head coach Mike Turner said. "We talked to our team about there are a few teams playing in November when it really counts. There are a lot of teams playing to get it over with and this is football team that has played into a position that really counts. I am very proud of them and excited for where they are at this point. We look forward to getting better every week."
C-N will be hoping to extend the careers of 13 seniors for at least one more week. Those 13 seniors and their parents will be honored with a ceremony 15 minutes before kickoff. Carson-Newman will also pay tribute to the men and women of the US Armed Forces with Military Appreciation Day.
Of particular interest to the Eagles will be games between Delta State (ranked seventh) and Florida Tech, Catawba (ranked sixth) and Lenoir-Rhyne, and Tuskeegee (ranked ninth) and Fort Valley State. Losses by the teams around C-N would go a long way in helping the Eagles postseason chances, as long as the Eagles can hold serve at home against the Braves.
Several Eagles are on record book watch in the final week of the regular season.
Derrick Evans' (Macon, Ga.) five-rush TD game against Lenoir-Rhyne last week vaulted him into the record books. Evans has 17 rushing touchdowns this season. That mark is tied for the most among quarterbacks in Division II. The 17 rushing touchdowns are tied with Antwon Oliver, Kenneth Tyson and Rayvon Howard for the eighth most in a single season in C-N history.
Evans has the second most rushing TDs for a QB in C-N history. Strangely enough, the record is held by a left-handed, sophomore quarterback from the state of Georgia, De'Andre Thomas, who did it with 20 in 2013.
Meanwhile, Dorren Miller (Acworth, Ga.) needs 84 yards to match Reggie Hubbard for the most yards receiving for any player in a season in the modern/option era. Hubbard sits sixth all-time with 882 yards rushing. Miller would need to hit 202 yards receiving, which would register as the fourth highest single-game total in school history, to hit the 1,000-yard mark and become C-N's fourth ever 1,000-yard receiver.
Running back Jared Dillingham (Central, S.C.) needs 42 rushing yards to become Carson-Newman's 25th 1,000-yard rusher. Dillingham has rushed for at least 60 yards in every week of the season except for the first two. Carson-Newman has had a 1,000-yard rusher in seven of the last eight seasons, with last year's campaign being the lone campaign in that span that failed to produce such a rusher.
Finally, All-America candidate and linebacker Sha'Heem Stupart (Taylors, S.C.) needs 12 tackles, he sits at 303 for his career, to catch assistant coach Mike Clowney for sixth on the program's all-time tackles list.
"He is a guy that is not about Sha'heem, he is a guy that is about this football team," Turner said. "That is the most important thing that stands out about him. He is never worried about his records or things like that. He really calls on the other kids on defense to play up at a certain level and we always want our kids playing up. He is a kid that is ready to standup and hold people accountable. There are very few people in this world that want to hold anybody accountable and if you are going to be a great football team then you got to have more than one guy hold people accountable. He is about leadership."
Meanwhile, as a team, Carson-Newman football's defense is in line to finish with less than 100 rush yards allowed per game on the season. If the Eagles can limit UNC Pembroke on the ground, the 2017 team will join the 2006 and 2003 teams to hold teams to less than the century mark on average. The 2003 team holds the record with 79.5 yards per game allowed.
The last two weeks, the Eagles have only allowed seven points after halftime. Lenoir-Rhyne and Tusculum combined to run 42 plays for 64 yards (1.5 yds/play) after halftime with eight three-and-outs.
UNCP is coming off a rollicking 56-44 loss at Mars Hill that featured a 42-31 halftime lead for the Lions and a first half that saw the teams score on all nine possessions.
Wide receiver JoJo Spann is the Braves top target. He is in competition with the Eagles' Miller for being one of the nation's top big-play receiving threats. Spann can boast of grabbing more than 20 yards each time he catches the ball.
"One thing that I have noticed while watching them on video, is that offense and defense is how hard they play," Turner said. "They are young just like we are and they have very few seniors that are starting right now. They are a program that is on the rise as they play these freshman and sophomores. As a football team at Carson-Newman we have got to match them playing hard and matching that excitement and enthusiasm to get it done on Saturday."
Kickoff between the Braves and Eagles is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage starts at noon on the Eagle Sports Network on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville) and cneagles.com/live with the AEC Tailgate Show.