Eagles and Edinboro renew former gridiron rivarly
The Carson-Newman Eagles and coach Ken Sparks will open the season against an old rivarly Edinboro on September 4. For the next 10 weeks, the Citizen Tribune will examine all of Carson-Newman’s 2014 opponents.
JEFFERSON CITY – Editors note: This is the first in a 10-part series breaking down each of Carson-Newman football’s opponents for the 2014 season. This feature breaks down the Eagles’ opener – a Sept. 4, Thursday night date with the Edinboro Fighting Scots.
The last time the Eagles and Edinboro did battle on the gridiron Bill Clinton was the President of the United States and Ken Sparks’ club was in year three of a four-year run where C-N would make the national title game a trio of times.
In 1998, the last year the team’s met, the Eagles fell behind 41-17 at the half before rallying for a 45-44 victory in what Ken Sparks calls one of Carson-Newman’s greatest come-from-behind wins.
Not a lot has changed for Sparks’ Eagles since ‘98. C-N still runs the veer; however, the Fighting Scots now run a spread offense under eighth-year head coach Scott Browning.
Edinboro comes off a 5-6 record in 2013 and a sixth-place finish in the PSAC West Division. The Fighting Scots have had back-to-back losing seasons after nine straight winning seasons, including a trip to the Final Four in 2009.
For the Scots to regain success, Browning will look to quarterback Cody Harris.
Harris returned from injury after sitting out the first eight games of the season, returning for the last two contests. But in those two games, he was superb. Harris tossed for 333 yards per game, completing 77.2 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns against two interceptions. He had a cool 176.4 quarterback efficiency rating.
He made the Fighting Scots highly competitive against nationally-ranked Bloomsburg in a 47-35 home loss. Harris then helped the ‘Boro hang on for a 35-34 win over Walsh.
Several favorite targets return for the Scots, including Darren Massey and Ben Eisel. Eisel and Massey were two of five receivers a year ago who each had more than 100 yards receiving and at least 13 receptions. Eisel led the charge with 45 receptions and 528 yards, but only had one touchdown to show for it.
It was Massey who was Edinboro’s top scoring threat with his four receiving touchdowns and 339 yards.
Massey only played in seven games, but still was able to garner the PSAC West’s Freshman of the Year honor.
The Fighting Scots do lose Marcus Johnson and Jordan Wilson at wideout – Edinboro’s second and fourth leading receivers from a year ago.
The Fighting Scots must also replace their top two rushers,
Jeremy Donaldson and D’Andrea Vaughn. However, the return of four starters up front should ease any issues there.
Defensively, the Fighting Scots were serviceable, but not superb a year ago.
Edinboro gave up 28.2 points per game and 392 yards per contest.
Truly, the Scots issue last year was not scoring enough points, or moving the ball consistently enough.
They only scored 22.4 points per game and produced a smidge over 314.7 yards per game – which ranked in the bottom 20 a year ago.
Defensively, the Fighting Scots were most effective against passing teams. Their pass efficiency defense was 30th in the nation a year ago and safeties Delano Fabur and Veuntrae Robinson are back to help with that end. Fabur was the leading tackler from a year ago with 89 stops to go along with a team-best five interceptions.
Robinson had 55 tackles – fifth on the team a year ago. Second leading tackler and linebacker Mike Shansky as well as his 87 tackles and 11 tackles for loss also return. He earned All-PSAC West honors last year.
The defensive line is bolstered by the return of Domenic Principale who had 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks a year ago.
Special teams could be an adventure for Edinboro. No specialists return from a unit that had six kicks blocked a year ago.
Carson-Newman’s Better Know The Opponent series returns Thursday with a preview of week two opponent Wayne State.
-From Contributed Reports