No. 10 Eagles prepare for conference clash with Catawba
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (3-0) will try to continue its best start since 2007 when Catawba (2-1) rolls into Mossy Creek for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
Carson-Newman started that 2007 season 6-0 before dropping its week seven game to Catawba 55-49. It was the last time the Indians beat the Eagles at Mossy Creek.
The Eagles own a 20-2 series lead against the Indians in Jefferson City and are ahead in the series 36-9-1 overall. Carson-Newman has won the last five meetings by an average score of 41-16. The Eagles have scored at least 41 in every meeting since 2009.
However, Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks isn't worried about the series' storied past, just that the Eagles take a step forward following last week's 41-14 win over Brevard.
"I just hope we continue to improve and be more and more of the football team we want to be," Sparks said. "I like the attitude of our team right now. We've had some week-to-week improvement in areas, but others have been inconsistent. But we have the want to, to get things done."
Two major areas of emphasis for the Eagles of late have been penalties and fumbles. The Eagles rank in the bottom 10 of 162 Division II football teams for fumbles lost with seven on the year. C-N's in the bottom 20 for penalties per game with a hair over nine whistled on the Eagles per contest.
"We're getting too many penalties and we're putting the ball on the ground too much," Sparks said. "Those are things we have to correct."
Meanwhile, Catawba has shown the hallmarks of a disciplined football team. The Indians are one of nine teams in the nation to have lost just one turnover on the season. Part of that comes from senior quarterback and Wisconsin transfer Danny O'Bryan, who is pickless through three games.
"They have a veteran quarterback who has been in just about every situation you could stick a quarterback in," Sparks said. "He can make all the throws and he's got great ability and field presence. He encourages others, at least it appears that way on film, and that's the sign of a great quarterback."
All-conference wide receiver Nate Charest leads that corps with 17 grabs for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Eagles respond with a resurgent Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.) who is on pace to break Buck Wakefield's all-time rushing touchdown record. Douglas has 37 for his career – 14 off Wakefield's mark of 51. Douglas is averaging two scores a game this season. He ranks third in the South Atlantic Conference in yards per game at 105.
However, it's a resurgent Eagle defense that Sparks is most proud of, especially because of how it's adjusted to schemes thus far.
"The defensive coaches are earning their million dollar contracts," Sparks said with a chuckle. "We've gone from defending a pro-I, to the spread, to a flex bone. Now Catawba will bring in a combination of Wayne State and Colorado Mines where they'll be in the shotgun and spread it out, but other times they'll come right at you. It keeps you awake at night. But our staff is fantastic and makes adjustments."
Carson-Newman's first string defense held Brevard to 178 yards of total offense. In week one against Wayne State, the first string limited the Warriors to 249 yards of total offense through two and a half quarters.
Last week, the Eagles sacked Brevard's quarterbacks three times and forced seven tackles for loss.
There are numerous promotions for Saturday's game. It's "Take a Kid to the Game" Day, a Pink Out for breast cancer awareness and Coach to Cure MD.
The contest can be heard on the Eagle Sports Network. Coverage begins at noon with the Tailgate Show. Fans can listen on the radio on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), 106.3 ESPN Radio the Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live with Carson-Newman's free high definition video stream.