VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Antonio Wimbush Interview
VIDEO: Darius Williams Interview
VIDEO: Ray Artybridge Interview
VIDEO: Phillip McDowell Interview
RICHMOND, Va. – Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) scored three touchdowns after halftime and Carson-Newman (1-1) used a bruising running game to collect a 33-29 win over Virginia Union (1-1) Saturday afternoon at Hovey Field.
The win marks the first by a South Atlantic Conference school at Hovey Field and is Carson-Newman's 14th consecutive against a CIAA school. The Eagles haven't lost to a school from the CIAA since 2001.
Wimbush reset his career high with 151 yards rushing. He tallied 20 carries for 7.4 yards a touch and his third career three-touchdown day.
"You know there were times you wanted to take him out and get him out," Carson-Newman head coach Mike Turner said. "The next thing I know he's in there again and he's breaking something. By the time I want to scream to get him out he breaks something and I go, "nah, I'll just shut up." So, you know he's a special kid. Everybody knows that. And he has worked so hard to get back to compete and I think some great things are in store for him this year."
The Eagles pounded out 300 yards on the ground for a third consecutive game, rushing for 316.
"It was important number one for us to come here and win," Turner said. "You're coming up here and playing a football team that's very prestigious in the CIAA, and with a coach that came from St. Augustine's, they were going to be a strong program. They've got some great athletes that they use very well, offensively and defensively. So I'm very proud of our kids for coming out, getting a good start today."
Carson-Newman quickly got the party rolling on its first possession. On the third play of the game, Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) rattled off his 20th career rush of at least 20 yards, toting it 50 yards down the left sideline to the one. A play later, Drake McCowan (Dalton, Ga.) charged in over left tackle from a yard out. The score was the first of the sophomore's career.
Virginia Union countered on the PAT, blocking it and returning it for a defensive PAT and two points.
The Panthers climbed within one three possessions later. They meandered down the field on a 15-play, 74-yard drive that featured three converted third downs. However, VUU stalled at the C-N six and Jefferson Souza kicked a 23-yard field goal to bring the Panthers within one, 6-5 two seconds into the second quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, Carson-Newman got rolling on its second possession of the second quarter. The Eagles went to a two tight-end set and marched down the field on a 13-play, 55-yard possession capped by a Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) five-yard touchdown run over left guard. That stretched the lead to 13-5.
Around those two possessions though, Carson-Newman had drives stall out because of a fumble and two others because of penalties
"It was sort of, I don't know, in bizarro world there some in the first half and we made some mistakes there that you thought, "well we're getting ready to do this" and we didn't," Turner said. "But thank goodness for the kind of kids we got, and I really mean that. The kind of kids we've got in this program—gosh they play hard, but they understand what it means to rally, what it means to be united."
Carson-Newman looked to be on the way to adding to that lead. The Eagles defense forced a three-and-out deep in VUU territory, and got the ball at the Panthers' 45-yard line after a 29-yard punt.
However, Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) was hit as he was throwing on a third down play, instead of an incompletion, the officials ruled a fumble that VUU recovered.
Six plays and 27 yards later, Souza thrust a 46-yard field goal through the uprights to pull the Panthers within five, 13-8 at the horn.
Virginia Union would take the lead in the third quarter with their first touchdown of the day. The Panthers pounded out an 11-play, 80-yard drive capping it with a one-yard Tabyus Taylor touchdown run to put VUU up 16-13 midway through the quarter.
Carson-Newman countered with the first of three drives polished off by Wimbush scores. Carson-Newman only passed the ball once after halftime, a 13-yard screen pass to Toot Johnson (Rincon, Ga.) to keep the possession alive.
Wimbush pounded the ball into the endzone with seven seconds left in the third quarter to put Carson-Newman back in front. He scored on a four-yard touchdown run.
After the Eagles' defense forced a three-and-out, the Carson-Newman ground game took back over and was aided by an unsportsmanlike foul on VUU midway through the possession. Wimbush capped the possession with a three-yard dive to put C-N up two scores with 10:29 to play.
VUU countered with Tabyus Taylor's second touchdown run of the day. He bounced out a one-yard run to the left side.
The Eagles put the game on ice to push the lead back to 10, 33-23 the next possession. Evans rolled out on a 27-yard bootleg to keep the drive alive on a third-and-six to help set the table for Wimbush's third touchdown. He rolled around the right side of the line and scampered into the end zone for the score.
VUU added one final touchdown as time expired to make the final margin look a bit better for the home team on a four yard TD pass to Jaiden Reavis that set the final margin at 33-29 C-N.
"What has to improve is that you've always gotta be—you know, when we're playing people the quality of Virginia Union, the quality of Wingate, the quality of West Florida, those are games that are back and forth kind of games" Turner said. "Like in a poker match, whoever flinches loses. And you've got to go play people that you play for championships. That you can't flinch. You know you've gotta be secure in what you're doing. So we need to just keep growing up, growing up, coming along. But the sideline today, the kids being in it together, the kids being supportive of each other, and what a great crowd of alums and those kind of things we had here with us today."
Derrick Evans was more efficient through the air, completing 5-of-7 passes to five different receivers for 54 yards. Johnson, Romain Kelly (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Devon Moore (Baxley, Ga.) each caught their first passes as Eagles.
Darius Williams (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.) both reset their career highs for tackles. Both had 10. Fairell made eight solo stops. Ray Artybridge (Iva, S.C.) had a pick to go along with five tackles and two tackles for loss.
The Eagles outgained VUU 370-364.
Darius Taylor led the VUU attack. He was 22-for-33 through the air for 182 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 13 times for 69 yards.
Tabyus Taylor was his top target, catching seven passes for 50 yards. Taylor also ran the ball 24 times for 109 yards.
The Eagles finally head home on Sept. 15. The Eagles play defending SAC champion Wingate at 7 p.m. from Burke-Tarr Stadium. Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m. with the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.