Crusaders Drop Heartbreaker To #17 Carson Newman
Jefferson City, TN – In a game decided largely by penalties and turnovers, the Crusader football team dropped a heartbreaker to the Eagles of #17 Carson Newman 35-34 on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles won the toss and elected to receive, only to cough up the ball on a forced fumble and recovery by junior linebacker Taylor Anderson on just the second offensive play of the day. However, the ensuing drive by North Greenville ended with a fumble of its own, giving Carson Newman the ball deep in their own territory.
The Crusader defense then forced a punt on the next drive followed by a six-play, 84-yard scoring drive that ended with an 11-yard pass from junior quarterback Nelson Hughes to senior receiver Thomas Weeks III for a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter.
Carson Newman returned the kickoff 89 yards before running back Andy Hibbett punched the ball in from five-yards out to tie the game at 7-7 near the end of the first quarter.
North Greenville would close out the opening quarter of play with a scoring drive of their own as a two-yard rush by junior Trey Walker ended a seven-play, 78-yard drive to give the Crusaders a 14-7 lead.
After an interception and 82-yard return by senior Quantel Mack stopped the Eagles’ first drive of the 2nd quarter, North Greenville gained a 21-7 advantage on a one-yard rush by sophomore Simeon Byrd with 9:57 left in the half.
Carson Newman’s next drive ended again with a turnover, this time an interception by Anderson to give North Greenville the ball at the CN 46-yard line. With a short field and momentum on their side, the Crusaders went ahead 28-7 after a six-play, 46-yard drive ended with Byrd’s second score of the day, this one from 20 yards out.
A one-yard rush by Carson Newman’s Damian Baker cut into the lead before the Eagles defense forced a second fumble, converting the turnover into seven more points on an eight-rush from Baker.
The Crusaders extended their advantage to 31-21 as a 38-yard field goal from senior Justin Gravely gave North Greenville a 10-point lead heading into the half.
The second saw North Greenville receive the kickoff and extended their lead to 34-21 after a 24-yard field goal from the foot of Gravely ended a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ran six minute off of the game clock.
Carson Newman and North Greenville traded punts on the next two possessions before the Eagles used a two-yard rush from Hibbett to cut the Crusader lead to 34-28 with just over two minutes to play in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the Crusaders seemed to extend their lead on a touchdown reception by Weeks III but a controversial holding penalty negated the score, forcing the team to attempt a 40-yard field goal that was pushed wide left.
The Eagles opened the final quarter of play with a 14-play, 77-yard drive that saw them take a 35-34 lead on an 18-yard rush by Baker with 9:09 left to play.
After the offense was forced to punt, sophomore Shaquan Burney forced a fumble that was recovered by redshirt-freshman Anthony Blair to give the Crusaders new life on their own 37 yard line. However, the Eagles would stop North Greenville on fourth down with an interception.
Carson Newman’s offense ran the clock down to the buzzer, securing the 35-34 come-from-behind victory on their home field.
A balanced offensive attack saw the Crusaders accumulate 414 total yards, including 215 rushing yards and 199 yards through the air, but four turnovers and seven penalties cost the unite valuable points. Walker recorded 132 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries for his second 100-yard game of the season, while Byrd scored twice, totaling a season-high 84 yards on 14 carries.
For the first time this season Hughes was held under the 200-yard mark, completing 19-of-34 pass attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown. Weeks III caught six passes for 75 yards and a score, while sophomore Robbie Brown led all receivers with 77 yards on eight receptions.
The Crusader defense once again had a strong showing, forcing four total turnovers in the ball game. Sophomore Quan Weeks led the unit with 12 total tackles, while Anderson recorded nine tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception in the effort. Blair was also in on nine tackles, including one tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery, as Darius Custard, Sam Houston and LeeShawn Cromedy also totaled nine tackles each.
The Crusaders (4-4) will return home on Saturday, Nov. 1 for a South Atlantic Conference Alliance tilt with Wingate University at 2 p.m.