Carson-Newman beats Tusculum in a thriller, 49-48

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- Quarterback Doug Belk rushed for 208 yards and scored the game-winning two-point conversion with 35.4 seconds remaining as Carson-Newman edged Tusculum 49-48 in one of the most exciting games in the storied history between the East Tennessee rivals.

The Pioneers (6-5, 2-5 SAC) had an opportunity to win on the final play of the game, but senior kicker Gareth Rowlands’ 53-yard field goal hit the left upright as time expired.

Tusculum quarterback Bo Cordell accounted for five touchdowns (3 pass, 2 rush) in the loss as he went 35-for-51 for 399 yards, snapping his remarkable string of nine consecutive games with 400 passing yards. The 2010 Harlon Hill Trophy candidate finished the season with a school and South Atlantic Conference single-season record 4,657 passing yards, which are the third most in NCAA Division II history. His three TD tosses gives him 38 on the season, a new TC and SAC single-season record (T19th in NCAA II history).

C-N running back Tyron Douglas rushed for 92 yards on 16 carries and three scores, including his one-yard TD plunge in the final minute to pull the Eagles within one point at 48-47. After a C-N timeout, the Eagles elected to go for the two-point conversion as Belk went off tackle to the right side and into the end zone to give the visitors a 49-48 lead.

Tusculum marched down the field in quick order as Cordell completed a 10 yard pass to senior Calvin Britt to the TC 37 and followed with a 10-yard scramble out of bounced to the TC 47. Cordell completed a 17-yard pass to Rashaad Carter to the C-N 36 with six seconds remaining. After a TC timeout, the Pioneers sent Rowlands on for the win. His 53-yard attempt, which would have been the longest in school history, had plenty of distance, but clanged halfway up the left upright as C-N held on the for the win.

The Eagles churned out 484 yards, including 452 rushing yards on the day as only five Carson-Newman players carried the football.

The contest was thriller as the 3,298 in attendance saw three ties and 10 lead changes in the 40th recorded meeting in the second oldest collegiate football rivarly in the State of Tennessee.

Tusculum records were being set all day including Britt as he became the program’s all-time leader in career receiving yards (2,449). He ends his career holding records in touchdown receptions (26) and yards per catch average (19.6 ypc). In his last game in a Tusculum uniform, Britt finished with a game-high 11 receptions for 123 yards and a TD, which gives him nine on the season (TC record).

Junior Deonte’ Gist established new school single-season records with 96 catches for 1,183 yards. His receptions tally is the second most in SAC history, while his yardage total is third in the league record book. Gist accounted for six catches for 73 yards, giving him 1,713 all-purpose yards, which are a new school record.

Tusculum scored 45 seconds into the game as the Pioneers took advantage of a 26-yard kickoff return by Gist, which was followed by a C-N personal foul as the Pioneers set up shop inside Eagle territory. Cordell completed a shovel-pass to running back Brian Marshall who sprinted down the near sideline to the C-N one-yard line. Cordell dove in from there to put TC on the board. A Rowlands’ kick put the Pioneers up 7-0.

C-N scored on its next two possessions to take its first lead of the sunny afternoon. Belk’s only pass completion of the day came on a 32-yard touchdown to Jason Brown at the 9:14 mark of the opening quarter to tie the game at 7-7. Johnny Foster later scored on a three-yard TD to put the Eagles ahead 14-7.

Tusculum answered with 10 straight points thanks to a 25-yard field goal by Rowlands in the final moments of the quarter. TC took advantage of a C-N fumble, which was recovered by the Pioneers’ Dustin Lane at the C-N 43. Jonathan Lyons scored his first collegiate touchdown as he hauled in a nine-yard pass from Cordell as TC led again at 17-14.

Carson-Newman followed with a six-play, 72-yard drive, capped off by Nate Inman’s four-yard TD run with 9:17 left before halftime as the Eagles led 21-17.

The score remained that way until Cordell found Rashaad Carter from five yards away in the back of the end zone for a 24-21 lead with one minute left on the clock.

But on the following possession, the Eagles capitalized on a pass interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike foul against Tusculum to get to the TC 33. Belk recorded back-to-back rushes of 18 and 13 yards to get to the TC 2. Brandon Baker gave C-N a 28-24 halftime lead with his one-yard TD run with 11 seconds left in the period.

After the Tusculum defense limited the Eagles to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, the Pioneers mounted a 12-play, 79-yard march that resulted in a 10-yard TD pass from Cordell to Britt at the 7:47 mark of the quarter as TC regained the lead at 31-28.

C-N followed with a 13-play, 80-yard drive as the Eagles converted on third down twice and once on fourth down during the possession. Douglas sprinted 44 yards to the one-yard line and finished it off from there for a 34-31 advantage. Curt Duncan’s PAT kick was blocked by Terrence Smith.

The block would prove huge as Tusculum tied the game at 34-34 early in the fourth quarter on Rowlands 32-yard field goal for his 10th consecutive FG to set a new school record.

TC forced Carson-Newman to punt on its next possession as TC took over at its own 31. But on the first play of the drive, C-N’s Oliver Davis recorded his second interception of the day at the TC 43. Three plays later, Douglas ran in from 14 yards away as the Eagles led 41-34.

Tusculum answered on the ensuing kickoff as Lyons bobbled the kickoff, but recovered and sprinted 81 yards to the C-N 3, setting up a Cordell TD run as the Pioneers knotted the game at 41.

In what looked to be the play of the game, Belk was stripped of the ball by Terrence Smith and was picked up by freshman LiRonta Archie who sprinted 26 yards to the end zone for the touchdown as the Pioneers led 48-41 with 5:50 remaining in the game.

Carter finished the day with 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown, giving him 1,004 yards on the season, marking the first time in school history that two Pioneers finished with over 1,000 yards. Carter also recorded his 2,000th career all-purpose yard in the game (2,095).

Rowlands established new school season records with 21 made field goals and 111 points kicking, giving him 270 for his career, eight shy of the all-time mark held by former All-American running back Eric Claridy (278, 1992-95).

Cordell wraps up one of the finest seasons in DII history as he posted school and SAC single-season records with 394 completions, 605 pass attempts and 702 total offensive attempts. He becomes only the second player in NCAA II history with over 700 attempts.

Cordell has passed for 8,115 yards in his 21-game career at Tusculum, which are the second in school history and sixth-most in SAC history.

Courtesy: Tusculum sports information

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