VIDEO: Mike Turner Press Conference
VIDEO: 2017 Tusculum Highlights
SAC Weekly Report
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-2, 4-1 South Atlantic Conference) will try to continue a remarkable run of form with its rushing attack when it travels to Greeneville, Tenn. Saturday to take on one of the region's top defenses in Tusculum.
Kickoff between the Eagles and Pioneers is set for 1:30 p.m. in the resumption of the second oldest rivalry game in the state of Tennessee.
"It's unique to have two universities this close together that know this much about each other," Carson-Newman head football coach Mike Turner said. "It's great for the fans and the alums, great for the two communities. They're a very sound football team and a very dangerous team. They can run the football, they can throw the football, and they've been playing great defense so they're a complete football team. We'll have to play our best, take care of the football, not give them anything easy and make them work for it. It should be a heck of a game."
Carson-Newman's rushing attack has been especially effective since it started a four-game winning streak after a loss to Newberry Sept. 22.
Ever since Newberry beat Carson-Newman 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 four-game winning streak, the Eagles are averaging 49.2 points per game, 471.5 yards rushing per game, 532.2 yards of total offense, 7.9 yards per carry, 8.2 yards per play, an average time of possession of 32:05 and is converting on 64 percent of third downs.
The Eagles have put up 600 yards of total offense in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 2015. After rushing for 546 yards against Mars Hill and 522 yards against Virginia-Lynchburg, the Eagles have back-to-back 500-yard rushing efforts for the first time in school history. Those two totals are the highest and third highest single-game rushing totals in NCAA Division II this year and the seventh and ninth most single-game rushing totals in Carson-Newman history.
Carson-Newman leads the nation with 374.5 yards rushing per game.
"They're growing up, they're maturing, and they're playing with more confidence," Turner said "They're also seeing why you've got to play at a certain tempo, why you've got to get your job done regardless. That's what an offensive lineman is. He's what of the few people where they don't know their number, they don't have an award for them; you just go get your job done. That's what these guys have been doing the last few weeks."
Meanwhile, the Eagles' running backs are starting an assault on C-N's record books. Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) needs one touchdown to move past Vernon Turner and into a tie for 11th with Nate Inman on Carson-Newman's career rushing touchdowns list. Wimbush has 28 rushing scores, Inman has 29. Robert Thomas occupies the 10th spot with 35.
Wimbush is also eyeing both C-N's single season and career rushing yards lists. Wimbush enters the matchup with Tusculum with 947 yards this season and 2,621 yards for his career. If he gains 53 yards, Wimbush will become Carson-Newman's 26th 1,000-yard rusher. On the career charts, Wimbush needs just seven yards to move into a tie for 14th place with Wayne Morton (2,628). A 65-yard day and Wimbush will match Floyd Mathis (2,686) for 13th all-time. Wimbush needs 230 yards to get to Vernon Turner in 12th place.
Wimbush leads the nation with 8.9 yards per carry. If the season were to end today, that figure would be the fourth highest single-season total in school history.
To keep those numbers up against the Pioneers will be a challenge. The Pioneers rank third in the conference in total defense. Jerry Odom's unit allows 318 yards per game. Only Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill have put up more than 400 yards of total offense on the team this year. The Pioneers have held four schools under 280 yards of total offense.
Sophomore linebacker Ivan Hogans is pacing the Tusculum defensive efforts with his 60 tackles including a career-high 14 at Lenoir-Rhyne last month. He is fourth in the conference in tackles (8.6 tpg) and has been credited with seven tackles for loss including two sacks and two interceptions including one last week at Catawba.
He has recorded at least two tackles in each of his 17 career games with the Pioneers including 11 at Mars Hill and eight at Catawba. He posted a career-high four tackles for loss two week ago against Newberry, which are tied for the sixth-most in Tusculum history.
"Well he's very mobile, he gets down the line of scrimmage and they've lined him up in different places also on that defense," Turner said. "Their defense is unique in that they can put people in different places and still be very, very effective. So that group is playing well, and they've got team speed on defense, and that's what a great defense is made up of."
Offensively, the Pioneers are vastly improved with a nice balance between their running and passing games.
Alex Ogle and Tommy Pistone have rotated in an effective two-quarterback system that averages 214 yards per game through the air. The rushing attack features a four-headed monster among Jordan Shippy, Maxwell Joseph, Maurice Gomillion and Lor'renzo Pratt. All four players have at least 33 carries with no one above 90 carries on the year. Shippy has been the most productive of the group. He rushed for a school-record 258 yards against Limestone. He has four touchdowns and 476 yards rushing on the year.
"It's the formations they use, they're trying to get you outflanked at times," Turner said. "You know they're going to use two, three, tight ends in there and those kinds of things so you've got to be in position first. You've got to make sure you're lined up correctly. You can't let somebody spill you out of your gap. That's what they're counting on, they're going to get downhill fast on you and you've got to make sure you're gap responsible."
Carson-Newman and Tusculum renew what is the second-oldest rivalry game in the state of Tennessee. The Pioneers and Eagles first met in 1904. (The Tennessee/Vanderbilt series is the oldest by eight years - 1896).
The Eagles won 10 straight contests from 1935-1950, missing a handful of years because of World War II. Carson-Newman outscored Tusculum 359-20 over that stretch. The Eagles shutout TC in eight of those meetings.
Tusculum won the last meeting in Greeneville 31-30 on a two-point conversion in overtime. Carson-Newman triumphed last year in Jefferson City 27-7 in a persistent downpour.
Kickoff between the Eagles and Pioneers is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage 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.