VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Mario Mezier Interview
VIDEO: Derrick Evans Interview
VIDEO: Antonio Henderson Interview
VIDEO: Marcus Williams Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (4-2, 3-1 South Atlantic Conference) dominated offensively, defensively and in the kicking game to put together its most complete performance of the year in a 52-24 thrashing of Limestone (0-6, 0-3 SAC) Saturday afternoon at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
The Eagles tallied season highs for points, total offense and rushing yards while limiting Limestone to less than 300 yards of total offense in a wire-to-wire win.
"I'm not going to let (a handful of miscues) separate what those kids did today," Carson-Newman head football coach Mike Turner said. "How hard they played defensively, offensively and the kicking game—that's the best we've looked in the kicking game as well. I was very proud of their effort. We talked about one heart and one spirit, and that's what united is, and we looked like a football team that played that way today."
The Eagles put up 508 yards of total offense, their most since eclipsing the 500-yard barrier with a 565-yard day last year against Mars Hill. The 52 points are the most for Carson-Newman in the Mike Turner-era and the most since scoring 52 against the Lions in a 2016 win. Finally, the Eagles rushed for 468 yards and had 7.7 yards per carry. The 468 yards rushing are the high water mark for the Mike Turner-era and the most that Limestone has ever allowed in its brief five-year history as a program.
Meanwhile, the Eagles' defense rose to the occasion and held Limestone 260 yards of total offense. The Saints had 104 yards on the ground and 156 through the air. Aside from a 54-yard touchdown completion to Cody Rau, the Saints only had two plays that went for more than 15 yards on the day.
"I watched those kids out there making some big hits and getting some things done," Turner said. "We've been on the road on four out of the first five weeks, we've played some competition and I think this football team is battle-tested. It's not ready by no means. We've still got a long way to go in a many areas. But if we can have that kind of effort, that kind of heart, that kind of excitement when they make things happen, then we're going to be a pretty good football team."
Carson-Newman also notched a win on special teams, with the Eagles first kickoff return for a touchdown in 719 days. Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) brought one back 94 yards for a score. In addition, Ray Artybridge (Iva, S.C.) returned another kickoff 56 yards and Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.) had a 24 yard punt return.
"Every week when special teams meets we talk about field position, flip the field and go score," Turner said. "We talked in there at half time: offense is going to get the ball, we need to score the first series and, hey, we scored on a kickoff return and that's double-good. We got points and plus we did it in a kicking game, and I'm very proud of those kids. We've been just a half a man away or a man away for the last two or three weeks on the kickoff return of really taking it to the house. We got that done today. So congratulations to those kids, to coach Antonio Goss and the job he does with our special teams."
Carson-Newman dominated the first half, outgaining the Saints 220-91 at the break. After the teams swapped three and outs on the first two possessions, the Eagles offense got on track on possession number four of the game.
Limestone quarterback DJ Phillips hurled a jump ball that was intercepted by the Eagles' Mario Mezier at midfield. Eight plays and 50 yards later, the Eagles had a 7-0 lead.
Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) called his own number on an option keeper to get the Eagles inside the 10 with a 20-yard rush. Then called his own number again for an eight-yard rush that put C-N up 7-0 with 6:07 to play in the first quarter.
After a Saints punt pinned Carson-Newman at its own one, the Eagles rattled off a beefy possession. Carson-Newman converted on a third down and a fourth down to meander down the field on a 14-play, 99-yard possession that took 7:06 off the clock. Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) capped the possession with a nine-yard run on an option pitch to the left side of the end zone for his third score of the season. That gave Carson-Newman a 14-0 lead with 10:33 to play in the second.
It was another long drive that sent Carson-Newman up 21-0. The Eagles took over at their own 11 after Limetone's third punt of the half. With Tyler Thackerson (Clinton, Tenn.) leading the offense, the Eagles marched down to the 26 of the Saints. Thackerson lofted a ball to the left side of the end zone. Quinton Phillips (Augusta, Ga.) raced under it to haul it in in front of two Saints. The toss was Thackerson's second career touchdown pass, and his first since finding Phillips in the endzone in week one of 2017 against Pikeville.
That score gave Carson-Newman a 21-0 lead with 2:25 to play in the opening half.
Limestone salvaged the half with a 10-play, 42-yard drive that ended in a 41-yard Griffin Martin field goal at the horn.
That amount of joy for the Saints would be short-lived. Williams ripped off his 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to stretch the Eagles' advantage to 28-3, 12 seconds into the second half. The return was the first for Carson-Newman since Kevin Snead took a 90-yarder to the house against Saint Augustine's.
Limestone couldn't get anything going on its opening possession with a three-and-out. Carson-Newman would take advantage of a 64-yard field. Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) flipped fields with a 52-yard run to set up the Eagles inside Limestone's red zone. Five plays later, Drake McCowan (Dalton, Ga.) powered into the end zone on a five-yard dive to push the margin to 32.
The Saints showed fight and resiliency. Scoring three times around a Drew Eudy (Hendersonville, N.C.) field goal for the Eagles. Cody Rau caught a 54-yard pass to get the Saints within 25, 35-10, with 7:06 left in the third quarter before Eudy's boot.
Then the Saints rattled off two straight touchdowns with the help of Carson-Newman's lone turnover of the day. Malik Brooks ran in from 12 yards away on a stretch play to cut the deficit to 38-17, then the Saints took advantage of the Eagles' fumble with a touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Hutto to get the deficit down to two touchdowns with 10:04 to play in the fourth.
"That's what really scared me there in the fourth quarter. I'm thinking, 'man, we're not going to finish good.'" Turner said. "But we did finish good. That's the part you can celebrate. You know, they're like me. They've got a short memory. They'll forget the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter, but you're going to remember that fourth quarter. And we did finish it right and finish it like a champion."
Any hope the Saints had would be dashed in short measure. The first play of the Eagles' ensuring possession, Wimbush bounced into a pile at the line of scrimmage on a dive play, bounced to the right side of the line and skedaddled 72 yards to the house to stretch the lead back to three scores.
Limestone went three-and-out on its next possession. That set the stage for a vintage C-N drive. Carson-Newman got the ball with eight minutes to play and rattled off a 13-play, 74-yard possession to milk all but the final 17 seconds off the clock. Thackerson capped it with his first career rushing touchdown, a 17-yard option keeper that set the final margin at 52-24.
Carson-Newman was powered by a five-headed monster on the ground. Five different Eagles all had at least 40 yards rushing. Evans and Wimbush did the bulk of the heavy lifting. Wimbush turned in his second career 150-yard rushing performance. He had eight carries for 155 yards, a score and a whopping 19.4 yards per carry. Evans countered with a career day. He had a career-best 131 yards on 14 carries and his 21st career score. It was the ninth career 100-yard rushing effort for Wimbush and the second of Evans' career.
Evans and Wimbush became the first Eagle duo to rush for 100 yards since Jared Dillingham and Diantae Thomas each had 100-yard days in a 27-7 win for the Eagles over Tusculum last season.
Thackerson, Williams and Jackson all followed with at least 40 yards on the ground. Thackerson had 67 yards on eight touches. Williams 40 on nine, and Jackson 40 on 12.
Thackerson was 2-for-2 through the air for 40 yards and the score to Phillips
Antonio Henderson (Manatee, Fla.) led the Eagles' defense while celebrating his 22nd birthday. Henderson had eight stops, six solo and two tackles for loss. Jaysen Cook-Calhoun (Hoover, Ala.) added seven stops and a tackle for loss.
Joshua Simmons led Limestone's defense with nine tackles, including two for loss, and a forced fumble.
DJ Phillips completed 15-of-26 passes for 156 yards and two scores. He found Shyheim Perry five times for 25 yards. Rau had three grabs for 72 yards.
The win for Carson-Newman pushed the Eagles to 300 games since they had last been shut out.
The Eagles return to action on homecoming Oct. 13 against Mars Hill. Kickoff with the Lions is set for 3 p.m. Gate open at 1:30. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 2 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.
�� C-N wins its fourth-straight game over Limestone! The Eagles unleash for 508 yards of total offense on the afternoon. @TBush14 has 155 yards on EIGHT carries. @leeboy1435 runs for 131 on 14 carries.— C-N Athletics (@CNathletics) October 6, 2018
�� @cnfootball 52
⚜️ @LimestoneFB 24