Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy Carson-Newman Athletics

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The 10th-ranked Carson-Newman football team erupted for 49 first-half points and held off a late rally by West Alabama on its way to a 59-21 victory over the Tigers on Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs at Burke-Tarr Stadium.

The Eagles (10-2) extend their winning streak to 10 games and advance to the Division II Quarterfinals, where they will face No. 5 North Alabama (11-1) next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Florence, Ala. C-N and North Alabama met during the regular season on Sept. 5, with the Lions claiming a 31-14 victory.

With the loss, West Alabama’s season comes to an end at 8-5.

C-N piled up 591 yards of total offense on the day, which was its sixth time surpassing 500 yards this season.

The Eagles netted 383 yards on the ground on the strength of three 100-yard rushing performances. Saturday marked the first time C-N has had three 100-yard rushers in a game since 2004.

Senior running back Buck Wakefield (Drummonds, Tenn.) led the way with 119 yards and a score, while quarterback Alex Good (Greensboro, N.C.) finished with 118 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Nate Inman (Fitzgerald, Ga.) gained 116 yards and had one touchdown in the win.

Good was also effective through the air as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 208 yards and three scores.

C-N senior receiver Reggie Hubbard (Chattanooga, Tenn.) was on the receiving end of most of Good’s passes. Hubbard grabbed three passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns, scoring on receptions of 57, 35 and 44 yards.

The Tigers were just as productive offensively, gaining 488 yards in the loss.

Junior quarterback Deon Williams completed 21-of-32 pass attempts for 323 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 33 yards on the ground. Eric McDonald hauled in four of Williams’ passes for 109 yards and a score.

Roosevelt Ross amassed 139 yards rushing on just 11 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run, to lead West Alabama’s rushing attack.

C-N’s defense may have given up nearly 500 yards on the day but it forced five key turnovers that led to 24 points. Senior defensive tackle Brandon Harmon (Houston, Texas) recorded seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery to lead the way, while linebacker Brian Brown (Hartwell, Ga.) tallied six tackles, one fumble recovery and an interception.

Junior defensive lineman Dwayne Perryman finished with a game-high 16 tackles to lead the Tigers in the loss.

C-N built a 21-0 lead by the 11:48 mark of the second quarter behind two touchdown passes from Good to Hubbard of 57 and 35 yards, respectively, and a 2-yard touchdown run by Ricky Harris (Perry, Ga.).

The teams then battled back and forth to combine for 48 points to close out the half, as the Eagles took a 49-20 lead into the locker room.

West Alabama went on a furious third-quarter rally to pull to within 49-41 heading into the fourth quarter. Williams connected with McDonald and Gerald Worsham for scoring strikes of 36 and 17 yards, respectively, during the rally, while Ross broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run.

But the Eagles regained control of the contest in the final stanza as they ate up more than 10 minutes of clock with two scoring drives. Wakefield capped a 12-play, 78-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and sophomore kicker Carlos Lopez (Seymour, Tenn.) drilled a 31-yard field goal to finish off a nine-play, 56-yard drive that sealed the win.

C-N will now turn its focus to North Alabama. The Eagles will be playing in Braly Municipal Stadium, where they are 0-8 all-time. C-N is 0-5 against North Alabama and has lost three NCAA Division II championship games in Florence.

Postgame quotes
C-N head coach Ken Sparks:
“It’s a great win, and we are grateful for it. I’m very proud of these guys. They have stepped up and they are a fun group to be with right now. We are real happy that we will be spending Thanksgiving together (in the quarterfinals). I’m thankful for their faithfulness in responding like they have and like they continue to do.”

On the Eagles’ success in the passing game:
“I think they thought that we couldn’t throw it. Their plan was to bunch up on us pretty good. It was basically a nine-man front that we were up against. We’ve always said we could throw it to win or we could run it to win. We had some great pass protection, and the kids played their hearts out.”

On West Alabama’s third-quarter rally:
“I don’t really understand that stretch. It was sorry coaching at halftime. I just didn’t do a very good job getting us ready to play the second half. When they scored at the end of the first half, I think it gave them a little momentum. Any team will get fired up when you get on a roll like that. We let them get on a roll, and thank goodness we had enough to come back and get it done.”

On C-N’s key scoring drive to open the fourth quarter:
“It was a great answer (to West Alabama’s rally). The defense stepped it up and forced a turnover for the offense, and the offense took advantage of it.”