VIDEO: Mike Turner VUL Pressser
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (5-2) takes its three-game winning streak outside of South Atlantic Conference play for the Eagles' first ever meeting with Virginia-Lynchburg (3-4).
Kickoff between the Eagles and Dragons is set for 1 p.m. Saturday from Burke-Tarr Stadium.
Ever since Newberry beat Carson-Newmaan in week four by holding the Eagles to their lowest offensive output in five years, the Eagles offense has caught fire. On Carson-Newman's three-game winning streak, the Eagles are averaging 44.7 points per game, 454.7 yards rushing per game, 511.0 yards of total offense, 7.5 yards per carry, 7.5 yards per play, an average time of possession of 34:43 and converting on 66 percent of third downs.
Additionally, Carson-Newman's rushing attack has gained enough ground to rank number one in the country in NCAA Division II and fifth among all programs in all NCAA divisions with 353.4 yards per game on the ground.
"We are executing better and playing like we're a little bit older football team," Carson-Newman head football coach Mike Turner said. "We've got some kids that have made up their mind that they're going to go out and get it done regardless. Now we have to finish. You know we won a football game by 22 points (last Saturday) and that's a great win, but I didn't feel like we finished well. We left some points out there on the field offensively, we let them get a touchdown or two defensively that they shouldn't have gotten. Not to take it away from them, because they (Mars Hill) played great and hard and they've got some players. But I don't think we finished the way we probably should have if we want to continue to keep improving and being a great football team."
Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) continues to have a stellar junior campaign after returning from an ACL tear last season. Wimbush needs one touchdown to catch Vernon Turner for 12th in school history for career rushing touchdowns.
Wimbush has 27, Turner sits at 28. Two rushing touchdowns and Wimbush will catch Nate Inman and his 29 for 11th all-time in school history.
Wimbush also needs just 37 yards to move into the top 15 in Carson-Newman history for career rushing yards. He moved past C-N Hall of Famer Boyce Green with his performance against Mars Hill.
Wimbush enters the week with 2,463 career rushing yards, he can move past Rodney Wampler (1969- 71) and become the 16th man in C-N history to rush for at least 2,500 yards. After Wampler, Wimbush can take aim at former teammate De'Andre Thomas and his 2,592 career rushing yards.
Wimbush is leading the South Atlantic Conference is yards rushing with 112.7 yards per game. His 8.3 yards per carry are the third-best figure in NCAA Division II.
Turner said Wimbush's success has come in part because of an offensive line that's pushed people around. In the past two weeks, the Eagles have had players generate the highest and second highest single-game knockdown totals in school history. Phillip McDowell (Boiling Springs, S.C.) tallied the school record against Limestone with 10. Jordan Seal (Morristown, Tenn.) followed that up last week against Mars Hill with eight.
"We've got to keep those guys growing with a hunger about them," Turner said. "There's so many little things, we tell the kids there's a lot of things I want to teach you, but I can't teach you till you grasp the big things. And we're getting closer to grasping the big things so that we can start talking about if you do this at the same time there's a chance to be successful."
The Eagles can also trot out multiple weapons to run behind them. Six different players are all averaging at least 50 yards rushing on the ground per game. Wimbush, Sherron Jackson (Miami, Fla.), Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.), Toot Johnson (Rincon, Ga.), Tyler Thackerson (Clinton, Tenn.) and Demitri Saulsberry (St. Mary's, Ga.) are all also averaging at least 6.0 yards per carry.
They'll go against a Dragons team that is vastly improved from a year ago. Last year, the Dragons were 0-8 and were outscored 414-43. This year, the Dragons are 3-2 against non-FCS competition. VUL hasn't allowed a non-FCS team to score more than 30 points against them this year. They pushed Newberry to the brink before succumbing to the Wolves 27-14.
"They're a football team that's very dangerous in places, they've got speed and skilled talent on offense," Turner said. "On defense, we just watched them against Charleston Southern and going into five minutes or so left in the second quarter it was only 10-0. So, they're a dangerous football team. They beat Fort Valley State at Fort Valley State. This week it's about us, Carson-Newman. It's about us making sure we're getting better. We've got things offensively, defensively and on special teams that we need to clean up."
Bobby Rome, a former UNC fullback, is in his first-year as the Dragons' head coach. He is VUL's fifth head coach since 2011, when the football program was restarted. Rome most recently was head coach of the UNC club football program. Prior to that, he was the head coach of Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, where he started the football program.
Kickoff between the Eagles and Dragons is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at noon on the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.