VIDEO: Mike Turner Presser
VIDEO: 2017 Lenoir-Rhyne Highlights
SAC Weekly Report
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-3, 4-2 South Atlantic Conference) will pay homage to 15 seniors in their final game at Burke-Tarr Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m.
C-N will also be trying to keep its South Atlantic Conference title and NCAA playoff hopes alive when No. 21 Lenoir-Rhyne (8-1, 5-0 SAC) comes to town. The Bears have won eight straight this year and haven't been beaten at Burke-Tarr Stadium since 2012.
The Bears can do no worse than a share of a South Atlantic Conference title, their fifth in the last eight years. The Bears only need to win against either Carson-Newman or Catawba to win the title outright. Lose both, and the door opens for Carson-Newman, Wingate and Tusculum to all lay claim to a share of the title.
The high-level contest adds weight to senior day.
"Our seniors have been important to our program," head coach Mike Turner said. "They've been very important as individuals. They've made contributions, many of them other than just being on the field. When you get kids that are seniors that have been in there for four years, some of them five that were redshirts, that's a special attachment.
"That's a special part of your family that never goes away. So, I talked to our kids yesterday about this game. It's important, it's got value to us as a program, it's got value to them as an individual. It's important and has value to these kids that are seniors because you're going to remember the last home game. You're going to remember your last snap. So, it's an important game."
Lenoir-Rhyne has won its last two games against the Eagles that featured direct SAC title implications. Lenoir-Rhyne won its SAC title in 2014 thanks to a 35-32 win over Carson-Newman at Burke-Tarr Stadium. The Bears also clinched a title in 2013 with a 37-3 win over the Eagles.
Carson-Newman is looking for its first win at home against Lenoir-Rhyne since 2012. The Eagles beat the Bears twice that year, 47-23 in the regular season 38-35 in the playoffs. However, the Bears have won back-to-back matchups at Burke-Tarr.
The Bears have been just disgusting this season, especially offensively. The Bears have scored at least 30 points in every game this year. They've crested the 50-point threshold on four occasions. L-R has the seventh best rushing attack in the country and has gained at least 300 yards on the ground in three straight weeks.
Lenoir-Rhyne has put up at least 400 yards of offense in every game this season with the exception of wins over Wingate and Newberry.
"They do a great job of changing formations, shifts, those kinds of things," Turner said. "Do the same things out of maybe three looks, so you've got to be sound in what you're doing. But there's a part of it that's about alertness. Sound in technique yes, but being alert where you are, alert to the change in formation, we've got to have people making calls and responding to calls to get us in the right place."
Lenoir-Rhyne can also boast of one of the best special teams units in the country. Kyle Dugger leads the conference in punt return yardage. He's brought two kicks back for scores this year. All told, the Bears have four special teams touchdowns this year.
"Dugger back there is a great punt returner there's no question about it," Turner said. "He's a great free safety. He's one of the best football players in our league period. You better account for him every time he's on the football field. They're going to bring an enthusiasm with their kicking game, with their special teams that we have to match."
The Eagles have been far better at home than they have been on the road this year. Carson-Newman is averaging 49 points at home versus 21 points on the road. Furthermore, the Eagles are averaging 433 yards rushing at home and just 289 on the road. Carson-Newman is looking to wrap up its home schedule unbeaten for the first time since 2009.
"I think it's being comfortable where you're at, it's exciting being at home. It's part of a gameday routine, a gameday tradition," Turner said. "I think part of that is having crowds, you know family, those kind of things here. It doesn't matter if you play away, at home, inside, outside, you just get to play football. And there needs to be that kind of genuine open-heart excitement there when you have a chance to play football."
Antonio Wimbush (Kingsland, Ga.) leads the nation with 8.7 yards per carry. If the season were to end today, that figure would be the fourth highest single-season total in school history.
Wimbush has already impacted the C-N record book. With 29 career rushing scores, Wimbush is tied with Nate Inman for 11th on Carson-Newman's career rushing touchdowns list. He needs six scores to crack the top 10 and match Robert Thomas.
He also became the 26th Eagle to rush for 1,000 yards in a season with his 100-yard performance against Tusculum. Wimbush sits at 1,059 yards for the year. He can break into the top 20 for all-time single season rushing totals with a fifth straight 100-yard game.
Speaking of 100 yard games, Wimbush has four straight. He is trying to join Buck Wakefield and Andy Hibbett as the only men to rush for 100 yards in five straight games in school history. Wimbush is the only player to rush for 100 yards in four straight games twice in one career. Wimbush enters the contest with Lenoir-Rhyne with 2,733 career rushing yards.
He needs 118 yards rushing to move into a tie for 12th place all-time with Vernon Turner (2,851). After that, Tyron Douglas sits in 11th all-time with 2,960 yards, a 233-yard day away for Wimbush.
Carson-Newman leads the all-time series 43-16 against Lenoir-Rhyne, but the Bears have been better side of late. The Eagles are 3-7 against the Bears in the last 10 meetings. That followed a series of 31 straight wins for the Eagles, dating from Nov. 3, 1979 to Nov. 6, 2010.
That 31-game win streak is the third longest win streak by one team over an opponent in an uninterrupted series. East Stroudsburg has won 38 consecutive games against Cheyney, a streak that came to an end last year when Cheyney dropped its football program, and Shepherd has won 37 against West Virginia State, also an active streak.
Kickoff between the Eagles and Bears is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at noon with the AEC Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.