JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 20 Carson-Newman (3-1, 1-1 SAC) will try to rinse out the taste of a 25-22 upset home loss to Catawba last week when it heads 90 minutes east to face conference foe Mars Hill (1-3, 0-1 SAC).
C-N beat the Lions last year in the final game of the regular season 35-17. The win secured the Eagles a spot in the playoffs while knocking the SAC's top defense at the time out of the playoff picture.
However, Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said he knows the Eagles need to look past the Lions' 1-3 record and be prepared for a team that could challenge last year's club in skill and ability.
"They've been tested," Ken Sparks said. "They played Western Carolina tough and had a lead on them going into the fourth quarter. They are much better than 1-3.
The Lions lost by seven to the Catamounts, fell late to West Georgia and dropped one to Newberry last week 24-10. Every game was in reach for Mars Hill in the fourth quarter.
Last year, Davis rushed for 107 on the Eagles, but C-N kept him out of the end zone.
"He's an exceptional running back," Sparks said. "They'll give it to him over and over. Then they have Dimitri Holmes out wide, and he's capable of making big plays time and time again."
Holmes gashed the Eagles for 115 yards through the air a year ago. Holmes has scored three TDs this year and grabbed 6.2 balls per game for more than 400 yards receiving on the young season.
The Eagles counter with Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.), who leads the SAC with six rushing touchdowns. Douglas is two touchdowns away from tying former C-N QB Alex Good for fourth on the all-time rushing touchdown list.
The Eagles are sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game at 326.3 per go-around. However, Catawba held C-N under 300 yards rushing last week for the first time since a 2012 home loss to Wingate.
"We rebound with our character and with out heart," Sparks said. "And have faith that if we do the things the right way this week, we have the chance to get right results. But if we do things the wrong way like we did last week, then we'll get wrong results."
Carson-Newman has won 16 of their last 18 games with the Lions and six of their last seven. However, despite Carson-Newman's series dominance, the Lions have played the Eagles tough. Seven of the last nine meetings between the schools have been decided by 18 points or fewer.
Mars Hill is led defensively by preseason All-American defensive end Troy Harris, who has accounted for 36 stops and 7.5 tackles for loss. The Lions give up 28 points per game, second to last in defensive scoring in the SAC.
The Eagles defense has given up yards in bunches – more than 400 yards, in fact – but C-N's 13 takeaways rank fourth in the nation.
Carson-Newman and Mars Hill kickoff at 1:30 p.m. from Ammons Family Stadium. Pregame coverage begins at 12:30 on the Eagle Sports Network with the Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), 106.3 ESPN Radio The Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.