Playoff berth on the line when Eagles, Wolves kickoff Saturday

Playoff berth on the line when Eagles, Wolves kickoff Saturday

Ken Sparks press conference

Carson-Newman Game Notes

Newberry Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The stakes will be high Saturday at 1 p.m. when No. 25 Carson-Newman and No. 21 Newberry kickoff from Burke-Tarr Stadium.  A Newberry (No. 2 in the region) win would knock Carson-Newman (No. 8 in Super Region II) out of the playoff picture, while a C-N win would put the Wolves' playoff hopes on thin ice. 

The Wolves' own a 4-3 series lead over C-N since Newberry's 2006 conference championship season and head coach Todd Knight is 5-1 all-time against ranked competition.

"Fortunately, this isn't do or die as far as life's concerned," Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said. "We don't want to miss out on getting better in life for the sake of the playoffs.  But on the same hand, maxing it out to play football is God honoring also."

Carson-Newman fell to Newberry last season 47-22 in a game that Sparks said was nearly as disappointing as the Eagles' 37-3 loss last week to no. 18 Lenoir-Rhyne. 

"The loss to Lenoir-Rhyne doesn't dictate how we prepare for Newberry," Sparks said. "What does is how we blocked and tackled.  We'll come up with a practice schedule that helps address the things that we were weak on.  We don't hit the panic button and we don't do radical things to try to fix stuff – we have to understand that everything is a reflection on how we're connecting.  You don't change principles, but you do adjust to the things that aren't going well."

The Eagles were held to under 100 yards rushing for just the 10th time in Ken Sparks career at Carson-Newman and first since 1998.  The Eagles are 8-1 following such games.  Newberry has held four teams under 100 yards rushing and six under 120 yards. 

"I watch 30 hours of Newberry video in two days," Sparks said. "The thing that jumps out like crazy is the speed of their team.  I watched an inside linebacker run down L-R's fastest player after being 10 yards behind him.  It's a great weapon for them to have."   

Edmond Robinson leads Newberry's defense with 57 tackles, but 13 players have made more than 20 stops on the season.  The Eagles rushing attack fell off a bit after last week's loss to Lenoir-Rhyne, dropping from second in the nation to sixth at 344 yards a contest.  Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.), De'Andre Thomas (Milledgeville, Ga.) and Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.) all average nearly 75 yards per game and rank third, fourth and fifth respectively in the SAC in rushing yards per game.  Thomas still leads the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. 

Newberry counters with a highly balanced offense.  The Wolves rush the ball 62 percent of the time, but 54 percent of the Wolves offense comes through the air.  Corey Washington – a potential All-American – leads the charge there with 11 touchdown catches.  The tally is the most in the SAC and 12th in the nation.  The 6-4 wideout averages more than 70 yards a game.

He's far and away the top target for Wolves' signal caller W.T. Murden (also the team's leading rusher).  Murden's 150.3 passing efficiency is best in the league and 21st in the nation.

Sparks knows it will be difficult to stop the Wolves' balanced attack. 

"We want to make every day, every practice count," Sparks said. "I'm looking for the team that I think we can be. I still believe that we can do that.  I've had high expectations for us and still want us to get to the level that I think we can get to."

The Eagles and Wolves kickoff at 1 p.m.  Pregame coverage begins at noon on the Eagles Sports Network on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), 106.3 ESPN Radio the Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at with the Tailgate Show.


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