Carson-Newman ends Lions' title hopes with 24-21 win

By By Scot Beard
The University of North Alabama picked a poor time to allow Carson-Newman to earn its first ever victory in Braly Stadium as the Eagles knocked off the Lions 24-21 to advance to the NCAA Division II semifinals.
Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks downplayed the achievement.
"There have been a lot of other places I haven't won too, so that's no big deal," Sparks said.
The Eagle defense shut down the Lions' high-powered attack and held UNA to negative four rushing yards. It is the lowest total in for UNA in 262 games dating back 22 years.
The Lions, which have averaged 430.4 yards of total offense this season, had only 277 yards against the Eagles.
"Carson-Newman brought intensity to the game," said UNA coach Terry Bowden. "They played better on both sides of the ball."
The UNA offense struggled early, gaining only 28 yards and failing to pick up a first down until there were only 35 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Carson-Newman, on the other hand, moved the ball at will and dominated the time of possession in the first quarter. The Eagles held onto the ball for more than 10 minutes and gained 103 yards on their way to the 10-0 lead.
The Lions' first possession ended after only two plays when Carson-Newman intercepted Harrison Beck's pass at the UNA 44-yard line. The Eagles opened the scoring with a 25-yard touchdown run by Buck Wakefield to cap a four-play drive.
The Eagles forced another UNA punt and drove the ball 65 yards in 13 plays before the Lion defense stiffened to force Carson-Newman to settle for a field goal to increase its lead to 10-0.
The Lions drove deep into Eagle territory early in the second quarter, but Carson-
Newman got its second interception of the half when Brian Brown picked off Beck on the goal line.
"I missed some throws today and I have to be accountable," Beck said. "The offensive line played well today and I had throws I usually make, but I couldn't do it today."
He finished the game completing 24-of-50 passes for 281 yards and two interceptions.
Bowden said Beck should not take all of the blame for the loss.
"If Harrison takes the blame for this one, I'll give him credit for the 11 wins," Bowden said.
UNA's Svante Davenport put the Lions back in business with a 41-yard interception return to set the Lions up at the Carson-Newman 2-yard line.
Marcus Sims punched the ball into the end zone on the first play of the drive and Kenny Spencer added the point after to trim Carson-Newman's advantage to 10-7 with 9:21 to play in the second half.
The Lions dodged another bullet late in the second when Wakefield fumbled at the 2-yard line as he headed into the end zone following a 28-yard reception. UNA's J.J. Johnson recovered the ball in the end zone.
The Lions struck early in the second half as Beck completed a 48-yard pass to Tim Hicks and Carson-Newman was assessed a personal foul penalty for a horse-collar tackle on the play to move the ball to the Eagle 8-yard line.
Hicks scored on the 8-yard scamper to give the Lion's their first lead of the game, 14-10, less than 30 seconds into the third quarter.
The quick strike fired up the Eagle defenders.
"Coming out in the second half, we flopped," Brown said. "We said 'This is mot going to happen and we buckled down."
Carson-Newman answered late in the third with a 1-yard touchdown run from Nate Inman to regain the lead for the Eagles.
UNA had appeared to stop the drive, but a pass interference call against the Lions gave the Eagles new life and they capitalized four plays later when Inman scored.
Carson-Newman extended its lead with 9:58 to play in the game when Wakefield broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown run, giving the Eagles a 24-14 cushion. It was the only play of that drive.
"Wakefield hit the seams and made plays," UNA linebacker Michael Johnson said.
Wakefield gained 165 yards on 20 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 33 yards as the Eagles leading receiver.
UNA tried to rally late and almost pulled off the come-from-behind win.
Beck found Charles McClain in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown strike with 1:31 remaining to cut the deficit to three points, but the comeback was short lived as the Lions botched the onside kick attempt and Carson-Newman recovered and ran out the clock.
It was another disappointing postseason loss for the Lion seniors who have compiled a four-year record of 44-7 but have only reached the semifinals of the Division II playoffs one time.
"This season meant everything to us," Johnson said.
Offensive lineman Luke Chenault agreed that it was tough to end his career with the Lions this way.
"I never expected it to end today," Chenault said. "I can look back with pride. It was an honor to be part of this team.

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