SAC rivals Carson-Newman, Wingate set to clash on national stage
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Carson-Newman's (2-1, 1-1 SAC) quest to rebound from a loss to Newberry will take place before a national television audience on the CBS Sports Network against Wingate (2-2, 1-0 SAC) Thursday at 8:06 p.m. from Burke-Tarr Stadium.
Wingate plastered Brevard last week 43-12, while C-N tries to respond to a 47-22 loss in its first road contest at Newberry.
"Wingate is a very capable football team that has had an interesting year just like we have," Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said. "Where they've pulled off a couple of great wins, but they've also given a few away."
The Bulldogs offense has been both brilliant and baffling -- sometimes in the same game. In a 49-35 loss against UNC-Pembroke, Wingate passed for more than 500 yards, but quarterback Robbie Nallenweg also threw seven interceptions. The junior signal-caller leads the SAC not only in touchdowns with 11, but also in picks with 12.
He faces a Carson-Newman defense lead by Jaycob Coleman's 28 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown. It's a C-N defense that leads the nation in turnover margin thanks to eight recovered fumbles, but still has yet to pick off a pass.
"We've got to change our ways if we are going to have a chance to win this ballgame," Sparks said. "They do a lot of the things that we aren't very good at."
The Eagles' rushing attack is ranked second nationally at 347.3 yards/game. Brandon Baker, Andy Hibbett, Tyron Douglas and Solomon Duanah are all ranked in the top 10 for rushing average among SAC tailbacks.
They'll face a Wingate defense lead by preseason All-SAC linebacker Jared Seate. Seate made 14 stops in a 22-21 Wingate victory in 2011.
The past few matchups between the Bulldogs and Eagles have come down to the wire. Three out of the last four games have been decided by three points or less -- the lone exception a 45-7 C-N win in 2009. The Eagles squeaked out a 35-33 win in 2008 at home. Wingate's won the last two, a 38-35 overtime victory at Burke-Tarr in 2010 and a 22-21 win at the Bulldogs' home in 2011.
Sparks said he hopes the Eagles take advantage of a national audience for the right reasons.
"It's a chance to expound on the message that we believe in at Carson-Newman, the message of the Lordship of Christ and express the opportunity to show what that looks like," Sparks said. "Something that we'd like to do is claim who we are and not be who we aren't. We want to play as if there aren't cameras around."
Kickoff for the contest on CBS Sports Network is slated for 8:06 p.m.