MARS HILL, N.C. – No. 20 Carson-Newman (4-1, 2-1 SAC) pounced on a pair of first half Mars Hill (1-4, 0-2 SAC) miscues en route to scoring 16 unanswered points for a 43-27 road victory at the Ammons Family Athletic Center Saturday afternoon.
Carson-Newman took advantage of a botched punt by Lion punter Michael Ashley when Jarrett East-Brown (Burlington, N.J.) knocked the ball free toward the end zone, enabling Jason Williams (Fayetteville, Ga.) to scoop it and score it from a yard away.
That play, and a Curt Duncan (Morristown, Tenn.) 37-yard field goal following a Victor Yurco 29-yard miss gave C-N a 13-point halftime lead it would not relinquish.
"I thought our guys made a lot of decisions today that weren't easy to make because it was so hot out there," Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said. "The temperature on the field today was close to 90. We played that whole ball game with six defensive linemen. It's amazing to me to see what those guys were able to do today."
Those linemen helped limit Mars Hill all-SAC tailback Shaikel Davis to 35 yards on 24 carries. Davis averaged 150 coming into the game and was seventh in the nation in the category.
"I'm surprised we were able to contain him," Sparks said. "But they threw for 190,000 on us. After a major letdown last week, it was important for us to build this week and we did that. We had some guys who can be pleased with themselves after this one and rightly so."
The Lions did pass for 341 yards, bolstered by Trent Miller's 23-for-48 day. He connected with Dimitri Holmes for three scores.
"We didn't defend the pass very well," Sparks said. "But the offense went down and scored when we needed to. We got stops when we needed to."
Mars Hill got the scoring started with a 33-yard Victor Yurco field goal after Carson-Newman failed to score on its opening drive of the game for the first time all season.
The Eagles would crack the scoreboard thanks to an Andy Hibbett (Corryton, Tenn.) touchdown run with 4:48 left in the first quarter. Hibbett took a pitch from quarterback De'Andre Thomas (Milledgeville, Ga.) and waltzed into the end zone from five yards out around the right side of the line.
Mars Hill scored on the very next play and a reverse quarterback pass to Holmes to retake the lead.
However, a Duncan 31-yard field goal would lead to the 16 unanswered points for the Eagles.
Carson-Newman rushed for 442 yards, led by Hibbett's 132 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Hibbett's 48-yard score in the second half to distance the lead back out to two touchdown's was the longest of his career.
Thomas rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries.
Anthony Baskin (Detroit, Mich.) led the Eagles defensively with nine tackles. Three other players, Greg Beauduy (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.) and Dante Thomas (Dalton, Ga.) all had eight. The Eagles made eight tackles for loss as a team, led by two a piece from Beauduy and Michael Surgbally (Sandersville, Ga.).
Javaris Neal (Columbia, Tenn.) recorded a J.J. Watt-esque interception, sans touchdown, the first of his career as a lineman for the Eagles.
"I told them that today was finding out what kind of heart we had," Sparks said. "We needed men who were fighters, the kind of guys who have heart and character to fight. The Lord asks us to be strong and courageous and today, we we're fighters. And that applies to something bigger than the ballgame – life."
The Eagles jump out of SAC player for a nonconference contest next Saturday at Shorter. Kickoff with the Hawks is set for 1:30 p.m. Pregame coverage begins with the Tailgate Show at 12:30 on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), 106.3 ESPN Radio The Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville, Tenn.) and online at cneagles.com/live.