VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
VIDEO: Drake McCowan Interview
VIDEO: Jordan Pryce Interview
VIDEO: Desmond Fairell Interview
VIDEO: Tyler Thackerson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-2) left no doubt in smashing Virgina-Lynchburg (3-5) 63-10 Saturday afternoon at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
The Eagles scored 42 unanswered points to close the game and limited the Dragons to 52 yards of offense after halftime en route to a fourth straight win.
"Our number one concern after last week was finishing," head coach Mike Turner said. "There is a way to finish so that you get better. You can finish the game the right way so that you get better the next week, that's what we did today. We finished."
The 53-point margin of victory is the biggest for the Eagles since 2009 when the Eagles reduced the Brevard Tornados to a moderate breeze, 77-7 on Oct. 24.
For a second straight week, Carson-Newman raced to more than 600 yards of total offense and more than 500 yards rushing. The Eagles pounded the rock 57 times for 522 yards on the ground. That's a paltry 9.2 yards per carry. The Eagles also were 6-for-6 through the air for 86 yards. That put Carson-Newman at 608 yards of total offense and a whopping 9.7 yards per play, the 10th-best single-game tally in school history.
The highly-efficient ground game was spread around nine players, none of whom had more than 10 carries.
"We've matured effort wise," Turner said. "We understand what it takes to do it the right way and expend yourself. That's a big part. Another big part is that they see where they are and what it takes to be successful. They played hard and we have something to brag about because we finished."
Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.), Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) and Drake McCowan (Dalton, Ga.) each rushed for more than 100 yards on the day. They became the first trio to each rush for 100 yards since Wimbush, Jamal Jones and Noah Suber did so against Humboldt State to open the 2016 season.
"Drake was a pleasant surprise," Turner said. "He's gotten a better understanding of the offense. That's also true of Sherron Jackson. They're both starting to see this offense before it happens. They're seeing that picture better. I'm fired up about that. But I'm not fired up about his fumble. Although, I can live with only one fumble offensively every four weeks."
Wimbush had the most ghastly stat line, finishing with nine carries for 158 yards and a score. With the rushing effort, he moved past De'Andre Thomas and into 15th on Carson-Newman's all-time career rushing list.
Williams added in 110 yards and two scores on eight carries, while McCowan tallied 106 yards on nine touches.
C-N had seven rushes that travelled at least 20 yards plus two more passes that gained at least 20. The nine plays of 20 or more yards are the most in any single game in the last two years.
The first play was indicative of how the day would go for Carson-Newman. Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) took Carson-Newman's first play from scrimmage 85 yards down to the Dragon's five. One play later, Marcus Williams (Apopka, Fla.) powered into the end zone from five yards out to give the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish with 9:48 to play in the first quarter.
A Chris Vasquez field goal pulled the Dragons within four with 35 seconds to play in the first quarter after the teams exchanged punts.
That only set the table for an explosive second quarter for the Eagles. Carson-Newman scored 28 points in a quarter for the first time since 2013. Newberry was the last team to have to weather a 28-point outburst from an Eagle team.
Wimbush, Demitri Saulsberry (St. Mary's, Ga.) and Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.) all found the end zone on the ground, while Desmond Fairell (Miami, Fla.) tallied Carson-Newman's first punt return for a touchdown in a decade with a 70-yard run back.
Evans got the scoring started in the second with a one-yard touchdown sneak that gave C-N a 14-3 lead. After Fairell scored an interception, the Eagles took advantage with a five-play, 40-yard possession that ended with Saulsberry finding the end zone.
Wimbush completed the first half ground-game scoring with an eight-yard rush, the 28th of his career. That moved him into a tie with Vernon Turner for 12th all-time in Carson-Newman history.
Fairell then made magic happen with his 70-yard punt return run back. It was the first punt return for a touchdown since Reggie Hubbard brought back a 70-yard punt return for a score against Mars Hill in 2008.
No one had a better second quarter than Fairell. The junior had two interceptions and the punt return for the score in a matter of 13 minutes.
"That was great for Dez," Turner said. "He's a talented young man who makes people around him better. He's provided a quiet leadership that shows people how to do things. I was thrilled for him to score a touchdown, no question about that. That was awesome to watch him do that and do what he does on defense."
Virginia-Lynchburg tallied its lone touchdown of the first half with a 96-yard Johnny Rembert kickoff return runback. That was Rembert's third kickoff return for a touchdown on the season.
After that though, it was all Eagles. C-N rattled off 42 straight points. Between the 28-point second quarter and a 21-point third, Carson-Newman had two periods with at least 20 points for the first time since doing so against Pikeville in last year's season opener.
Carson-Newman had outgained VUL 299-141 in total offense at the half, and 253-28 on the ground.
The Eagles kept the pedal to the accelerator in the second half. Carson-Newman scored all three times it touched the football in the third quarter and the first four times it touched the football in the second half. Williams had the most explosive of the three scores with a 56-yard dive for six on the third play of the second half.
Saulsberry scored his second touchdown of the day on a two-yard dive on the second possession. TJ Smith (Marietta, Ga.) won a jump ball with Derwin Witt on the left side of the end zone to collect his first career touchdown catch. Tyson Herron (Bogart, Ga.) lofted the ball to him for the 23-yard score.
The Eagles' fourth second half drive came to a close with Drake McCowan (Dalton, Ga.) 23-yard rush over the left side that set the final at Carson-Newman 63-10.
Virginia-Lynchburg averaged a minimalistic 1.6 yards per play after halftime.
The Eagles lived in the backfield with a season-high five sacks and a season-high 14 tackles for loss in spite of resting All-SAC defensive tackles Montel Presley (Bushnel, Fla.) and Brian Bembry (Homestead, Fla.).
"The first half I think we couldn't figure out that we could play without Montel and Brian," Turner said. "We caught, instead of hit. That allowed them to get some first downs. We wanted to rest those two. Now, the guys around them eventually figured it out, and here it is again, we finished."
Jordan Pryce (Darlington, S.C.) proved to be headache to deal with. He had six tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Ray Artybridge (Iva, S.C.) led C-N in tackles for the first time in his career with seven.
Benjamin Marquis had eight tackles along with Calloway Lee to lead the Dragons defense.
Virginia-Lynchburg hadn't allowed more than 30 points to a Division II team all year prior to the Eagles' 63-point sustained explosion.
Carson-Newman hops back into conference play for the second oldest rivalry game in the State of Tennessee against Tusculum. Kickoff Saturday from Pioneer Field is set for 1:30 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 12:30 with the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.
✅ @TBush14's assault on the @cnfootball record books— Carson-Newman Athletics (@CNathletics) October 20, 2018
✅ @d2_fairell with the first punt return for a score in a decade
✅ The most points in a quarter since 2013
Get your stats assault with a quick wrap on a 63-10 @cnfootball win over @VULFootball pic.twitter.com/WkBfb1ur8q