WATCH: Newberry cruises to win over Carson Newman
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NEWBERRY – Saturday’s contest at Setzler Field pitted preseason South Atlantic Conference favorite Carson-Newman and its vaunted split-back veer option rushing attack against a Newberry team having a historic run of success, both against the run and against the Eagles.
It took Newberry less than three hours to continue the trend on both fronts.
Newberry (2-2, 1-0 SAC) used a suffocating defensive effort and a pair of interceptions by David Vereen to smother Carson-Newman (2-2, 1-1 SAC) 23-3 at Setzler Field and open the SAC slate with a win for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
The win marked Newberry’s first three-game winning streak over the Eagles since the Eisenhower administration, gives the Wolves four wins in the last five meetings with the Eagles, and was Newberry’s sixth win in seven tries against Carson-Newman at Setzler Field.
Vereen’s first pick came two yards from the goal line and sparked a 10-play, 98-yard touchdown march that ended on a 58-yard rush by Markell Castle. The slippery wide receiver eluded no less than four would-be tacklers; he angled left on a well-blocked reverse play, tiptoed the near sideline, sliced back toward the hashmarks at the 30, slipped out of the grasp of the final Eagle defender inside the 15, and burst into the end zone to break a scoreless tie.
Vereen’s second interception came at the Wolves’ 42-yard line on a tipped ball that nearly fell incomplete to the Setzler Field turf before being kicked up by the intended receiver and into Vereen’s waiting arms. The sophomore cornerback raced down the sideline and into the end zone to salt the game away.
The pick-six came two plays following the Wolves’ third field goal of the day, giving Newberry 10 points in a span of 38 seconds. In last season’s thrilling win over the Eagles, Newberry scored nine points in a key third quarter span that lasted just 16 seconds.
The Eagles finished a paltry 5-for-11 for 56 yards through the air and struggled to find much running room against Newberry’s exceptional defense. Carson-Newman was limited to 162 yards on 46 carries, its worst rushing output since mustering just 90 yards in a 2013 loss to eventual national runner-up Lenoir-Rhyne that also represented the last time the Eagles were held to just three points.
Carson-Newman was fruitless on 10 third-down opportunities and gained 11 yards on its first nine snaps of the second half, leading to three straight three-and-outs. Newberry’s defense held the Eagles to 153 yards shy of their season rushing average that had ranked fourth nationally through the season’s first three weeks. Carson-Newman’s 218 yards of total offense were 169 yards below their average output in 2018.
Leading the charge was the tandem of Joe Blue and Jamarcus Henderson, who finished the game with nine tackles apiece. Henderson had a pair of quarterback hurries and moved into a tie with Tony Ransom for the school record in career tackles for loss (51.5) and is just four shy of matching Steve Jouse (Carson-Newman 1999-2002) for the all-time SAC record.
Blue now has 39 tackles through three games played, a mark that would tie for the national lead in this week’s Division II statistical rankings.
Newberry gained a season-high 254 yards rushing on 43 carries, an average of 5.9 yards per rush. Castle led the way with 61 yards on two carries and added a four-yard reception. Greg Ruff and Austin Barnes each netted 55 yards with Voshon St. Hill contributing an additional 47.
Ruff was also 6-for-12 through the air for 45 yards. He threw the first interception of his career on the final play of the first half.
Shea Rodgers and Kevin Weber combined for a tremendous day in the kicking game. Weber nailed a career-long 48-yard field goal and kicked off six times with two touchbacks and two that were returned from the end zone, a major contributing factor to Carson-Newman’s average starting field position of its own 21-yard line.
Rodgers also played a key role with a 52-yard average on four punts, including a booming, career-long 70-yard kick in the first quarter that came within six yards of the school record set in 1968 by Roger Hazel. He placed three of four punts inside the 20, connected on both of his field goal opportunities, and added a pair of extra points.
The game included a number of key moments: two third down conversion passes by Ruff on the drive set up by Vereen’s pick and culminating in Castle’s touchdown run, a bad snap on a 46-yard Carson-Newman field goal attempt that would have cut the deficit to 10-6 just before halftime, and a bruising fourth down conversion by Barnes on the fourth quarter drive leading to the Wolves’ field goal and followed closely by Vereen’s pick-six.
Newberry steps out of SAC play for the final time in 2018 with a trip to UNC Pembroke next Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.