Tusculum wins overtime thriller against Carson-Newman

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GREENEVILLE, TN- Luke Lancaster connected with Jordon Shippy on a two-point conversion in overtime as Tusculum College edged Carson-Newman University 31-30 in South Atlantic Conference action Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Field.

Tusculum (4-7, 3-4 SAC) fell behind 30-23 in overtime on a one-yard run on fourth-and-goal by Carson-Newman’s Jared Dillingham and extra point by Carson Wise, but used a 20-yard completion from Lancaster to Rodnell Cruell to set up at first-and-goal on the Eagle 5. Tony Belle gained two yards on first down, then picked up the final three yards on the next play to pull the Pioneers within 30-29.

Tusculum, which could not convert in an identical situation in a 28-27 loss at Mars Hill two weeks earlier, went for the two points and the win. Lancaster rolled right and hit Shippy in the flat, and the redshirt freshman broke the plane at the pylon as his teammates swarmed the field in celebration of the Pioneers’ first win over the Eagles since Nov. 8, 2008 when Tusculum won 45-44 in Greeneville thanks to a blocked extra point in the final minute.

The game also marked the third overtime contest of the season for the Pioneers and their sixth in the last five years, and was Tusculum’s first win in overtime since a 20-17 victory over UNC Pembroke on Nov. 1, 2014. It was also Tusculum’s first one-point win since a 26-25 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 15, 2011, but their third one-point victory all-time against Carson-Newman.

The loss for the Eagles (4-7, 2-5 SAC) overshadowed a comeback from a 20-0 third-quarter deficit on touchdown runs by Noah Suber, Antonio Wimbush and Montavious Taylor, the latter coming with 9:02 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 23-23. Carson-Newman ran for 310 yards on 70 attempts against Tusculum, but did not have a run longer than 18 yards in the game.

Shippy led the Pioneers with 81 yards on nine carries, including a 47-yard touchdown run in the second quarter which gave the Pioneers a 10-0 lead. Will Tommie kicked a career-high three field goals for the Pioneers, while Lancaster finished 19-for-36 for 230 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Chavis Williams in the third quarter.

Carson-Newman took the opening kickoff and moved into Tusculum territory, but Wimbush was hit by Brandyn Bartlett and fumbled, with Deres Benn recovering at the Pioneer 41. Neither team was able to gain a first down on the next two possessions, setting up Tusculum with possession at the Carson-Newman 45. Six plays later, Tommie equaled his career high with a 46-yard field goal to give the Pioneers a 3-0 lead with 7:34 left in the opening quarter.

The Eagles nearly took the lead in the first minute of the second quarter as Wimbush took a punt and went 68 yards for a touchdown, but the score was negated by a holding penalty. After forcing a punt, Tusculum needed just three plays to extend their lead as Shippy dashed up the middle 47 yards for a score and a 10-0 lead with 10:35 to go in the half.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer defense forced the Eagles into their fifth consecutive punt and turned it into more points, driving 55 yards on 11 plays before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Tommie which gave Tusculum a 13-0 lead with 2:30 left in the half. Carson-Newman looked to put points on the board late in the half, marching to a first-and-goal at the Tusculum 10 with just over a minute to play. However, the Pioneers’ Jaylynn Kesterson stole the ball out of Wimbush’s hands at the 6 and Tusculum ran out the clock to go to the locker room with a 13-0 lead.

In the second half, Tusculum received the kickoff and drove 73 yards in seven plays, with Lancaster hitting Williams in stride down the left sideline for a 33-yard score and a seemingly comfortable 20-0 lead with 11:08 left in the third quarter.

However, Carson-Newman’s offense came to life on their first drive of the third quarter, helped by a completion of 33 yards from Suber to Darvia DuBose and a 23-yard throwback pass from Wimbush to Suber to move the ball to the Tusculum 6. Suber then scored on a one-yard sneak to cut the Tusculum lead to 20-7 with 8:47 remaining in the third quarter.

The Pioneers added more points on their next possession, highlighted by a leaping 29-yard catch by Cruell on third-and-17, to move inside the Carson-Newman 20. However, the Eagle defense buckled down and limited the Pioneers to a 33-yard field goal by Tommie which gave Tusculum a 23-7 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

Carson-Newman then drove 77 yards in eight plays, aided by a pass interference penalty, a 13-yard rush by Wimbush on fourth-and-2, and a 44-yard screen pass from Suber to Wimbush on third-and-15 which moved the ball to the Tusculum 2. Wimbush then scored on the next play but the two-point conversion try failed, which left Tusculum on top 23-13 with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.

Tusculum committed its only turnover on its next play from scrimmage as Altizer could not collect a lateral pass from Lancaster and Carson-Newman’s Lane Bloom recovered at the Pioneer 30. The Eagles had their second touchdown of the game called back on a holding penalty, which forced Wise into a 49-yard field goal which he drilled on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull Carson-Newman within 23-16.

The Pioneer offense was unable to gain a first down on either of its next two series, and the Eagles took advantage as they marched 60 yards on four plays, with Taylor dashing in nearly untouched from 18 yards out to tie the game at 23-23 with 9:02 remaining.

After forcing a Pioneer punt, the Eagles drove toward midfield when Suber was picked off by the Pioneers’ Deres Benn, who ran the ball back 36 yards to the Carson-Newman 20 with 5:19 left. Faced with the chance to get the go-ahead points, the Pioneers were flagged for two penalties on the same play and Lancaster was later sacked to push Tusculum all the way back to its 41. Following a punt, the Tusculum defense held Carson-Newman in its own territory and got the ball back with exactly one minute left, but a sack at midfield on the final play of regulation sent the teams to overtime.

Carson-Newman had the first possession of overtime and went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Pioneer 16, with Suber gaining two yards for the first down. The Eagles were set up on first-and-goal at the Tusculum 2, but back-to-back penalties pushed the Eagles back to the 11. A 10-yard run on third down by Wimbush left the Eagles with fourth-and-goal at the 1, and Dillingham went off left tackle for the go-ahead points.

Tusculum had to start its overtime possession at the 40 due to a personal foul penalty on the conversion kick, but a personal foul by the Eagles on the first play of the drive put the ball at the Carson-Newman 25. On third down, Lancaster hit Cruell for a 20-yard gain to the Eagle 5, and Belle scored two plays later to set up the dramatic finish.

Wimbush finished the game with 24 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles, while Taylor added 111 yards on 22 carries and a score. Suber, who completed 12-of-21 passes for 126 yards, also ran for 28 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown. Wimbush was also the leading receiver for the Eagles, with three catches for 49 yards, while Aaron Seward had three receptions for 26 yards.

Belle had a team-high 16 carries for the Pioneers, finishing with 38 yards and the overtime touchdown. Cruell was the top target in the air for Lancaster, as he had five catches for 81 yards. Altizer had three receptions for 48 yards and Deshawn Davis had three grabs for 18 yards. In all, Lancaster connected with nine different receivers for the Pioneers.

On defense, Benn led the Pioneers with 13 tackles (eight solo), including 1 1/2 for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. Brandon Williams also had 13 tackles for the Pioneers (eight solo), with three for loss and one sack, while Bartlett and Colton Strickland each had 10 tackles. Brent Williams also had a sack for the Pioneers, who were able to take Suber down twice in the game.

Jarvis Green was the leading tackler for the Eagles with 14 stops, including 2 1/2 for loss and one sack. Jerry Miclisse and Bloom each had nine tackles for the Eagles, who recorded four sacks in the game.

Both punters were busy and effective, with Tusculum’s Hunter Cantrell averaging 43.7 yards on seven attempts with three inside the 20, and Carson-Newman’s Jonathan King posting an average of 41.1 yards per punt with a long of 51 yards. In addition to being a career high, Tommie’s three field goals were the most for a Pioneer kicker since Gareth Rowlands drilled four at Catawba on Nov. 6, 2010.

As a team, Carson-Newman collected 24 first downs to 17 by Tusculum, and outgained the Pioneers by a margin of 459 yards to 330. The Eagles ran 23 more plays than the Pioneers (92 to 69) despite Tusculum having the time of possession advantage by a margin of 30:54 to 29:06. Carson-Newman went 7-for-20 on third downs, but converted on all four of its fourth-down attempts. The Pioneers were 4-of-15 on third-down opportunities.

Courtesy: Tusculum Athletics

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