JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. --- Quarterback Tyler Thackerson accounted for four touchdowns, while the Carson-Newman defense recorded a school-record 10 sacks as the Eagles defeated in-state rival Tusculum 49-13 Saturday afternoon at Burke-Tarr Stadium. It was the 49th meeting in the second oldest collegiate gridiron rivalry in the State of Tennessee (1904).
Carson-Newman (8-2, 6-2 SAC), listed fifth in the NCAA Division II Super 2 rankings, claimed sole possession of third place in the South Atlantic Conference standings and all but solidified its spot in next week's NCAA Playoffs.
Tusculum (5-6, 4-4 SAC) has its four-game winning streak snapped as the Pioneers finish tied for fourth place in the league ledger. It is Tusculum's fourth consecutive top-tier finish in the conference, a first for the Pioneer program.
Thackerson rushed for three touchdowns and threw a 35-yard TD strike to Braxton Westfield. Thackerson ran for 68 yards on 15 carries and went 5-of-12 for 115 yards with zero interceptions and was not sacked on the day.
Carson-Newman finished the game with 451 total yards including 336 rushing yards. Tusculum was held to 149 total yards including a minus-35 yards. TU redshirt freshman running back Thurlow Wilkins, who entered Saturday with three straight 100-yard games, was held to four yards rushing on 13 carries.
C-N's Tray Jereidini-Wyche finished the game with eight tackles, including six hits for loss and five sacks. Rondrow Peebles added four tackles for loss with three sacks in the victory.
Tusculum junior linebacker Ivan Hogans led all players with 14 tackles including one for loss, while sophomore linebacker Jackson Cauthen finished with nine tackles including two for loss for the Pioneers.
TU sophomore punter Andrew Cantrell averaged 42 yards on his eight punts including a season-long of 58 yards. C-N punter Nate Craft averaged 38.0 yards on his five punts which are were inside the TU 20-yard line.
Tusculum turned the football over twice, both resulting into Carson-Newman touchdowns as the Eagles did not commit a turnover.
Carson-Newman jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first half scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters.
After the two teams punted on their opening possessions to start the game, C-N went 70 yards on six plays in its second drive, which was capped off by a 35-yard TD pass to Westfield for the score. Craft's extra point made it 7-0 with 9:05 left in the quarter.
Tusculum went three plays and out on its second possession as C-N took over at its 44-yard line. C-N converted three first downs and moved the ball to the TU 18-yard line. On fourth down and two yards to go, Wimbush sprinted through the right side to score from 18-yards out for his 10th touchdown of the season as the Eagles led 14-0 with 2:26 left in the period.
The Pioneers took its next possession to midfield, but the drive would stall as TU punted and C-N took over at the nine-yard line. Carson-Newman drove nearly the length of the field going 91 yards in 10 plays with Devon Moore scoring on a 20-yard run to increase the lead to 21-0 with 9:32 left before halftime.
Each team would punt on their next possession. TU quarterback Joaquin Collazo was intercepted by C-N's Desmond Fairell at the Tusculum 23. It was his SAC leading eighth interception of the game. Troy Dendy would run it into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown as the Eagles led 28-0 with 2:13 left on the scoreboard and would take that lead into the locker room.
Tusculum received the kick-off to start the second half and took over at the TU 25. Collazo ran for four yards and completed an 11-yard pass to Maurice Gomillion to the TU 43. A defensive holding penalty on third down against C-N extended the drive as Collazo and Tory Ponder connected on an eight-yard completion followed by a 35-yard TD pass to put the Pioneers on the scoreboard. The extra point try was unsuccessful as TU trailed 28-6 at the 10:47 mark of the quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage, Wimbush ran 67 yards to the TU 2 yard line. Thackerson would call his own number on the quarterback keeper for his first TD run of the day and a 35-6 lead.
Collazo would be sacked on the next possession as Damarkus Jones caused a fumble which was recovered by teammate Wyckeff Phanor at the TU 20. Three plays later, Thackerson would score on a 13-yard run to push the lead to 42-6 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
Thackerson would tack on his third TD of the quarter as he scored on a five-yard scoring run for a 49-6 lead by the Eagles.
Tusculum salvaged another touchdown late in the fourth quarter as quarterback Bryce Moore completed a 23-yard pass to Ponder who ran to the C-N one-yard line but he was hit and fumbled, but TU's Jacob Moss picked up the loose ball at the two-yard line and carried it into the end zone for the score. Eli Shepherd's was good to provide the final scoring margin.
Ponder finished the game with five receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown, his sixth of the season. Moss posted four grabs for 33 yards and a TD, his third of the year.
Carson-Newman recorded 19 first downs and went 4-of-12 on its third down attempts. Tusculum posted 11 first downs and went 1-of-12 on third down.
Tusculum established a new single-season record for average time of possession with 32:39.