Eagles set to host Concordia-Selma Thursday night
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — When the 19th-ranked Carson-Newman football team returns to action on Thursday for the first time in two weeks, it will be playing a team that no one in the program is very familiar with.
The Eagles are set for a first-ever meeting with Concordia (Ala.) at 7 p.m. in Burke-Tarr Stadium, and C-N head coach Ken Sparks said the Hornets have the talent to challenge his young squad.
"There really are a lot of unknowns (about Concordia)," Sparks said. "When you look at the scores of their two ballgames, they are playing pretty good right now. They had a chance to beat West Georgia, and then to do what they did against Miles was impressive. They are a veteran team and have a lot of ability. Everywhere I look they have big, fast players. We are going to have to play well against them."
C-N (1-1) enters the game with some momentum on its side after rallying for 14 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Bentley, 35-28, in its last outing.
Sparks is interested to see if his team can carry over that fourth-quarter momentum to Thursday.
"If we could pick up where we left off the fourth quarter of the last ballgame, that's what I'll be looking for," he said. "We need to build on what we did in during the end of that ballgame and what we did this past week in practice."
Sparks said the off week couldn't have come at a better time not only to give his team time to heal, but also to go back to working on some of the basics it was unable to focus on with just five days in between its first two games.
"I think we probably needed some time off. We've been going after it awful hard," Sparks offered. "We were able to work on some fundamental things during the off week. When you are going through five days of game preparation for two ballgames, you don't get to many fundamental things covered. We went back to doing some blocking and tackling. That was good for us."
The Eagles will need to be fundamentally sound with a Concordia squad known for its speed and athleticism coming to town.
The Hornets (1-1) are riding high after defeating Miles 52-20 last Saturday. Concordia rolled up 508 yards (272 rushing, 236 passing) of total offense in the win.
"They are a shotgun zone offense," Sparks said. "They run a lot of inside and outside zone and have speed. That's what they are doing is they are out-speeding people. They have big receivers and love to throw it down the field. It's a matter of whether we will be able to play a little bit faster than we've been playing."
Senior running back Anthony Ward and sophomore receiver Jeremy Morris have been two of the playmakers leading the way for Concordia. In two games, Ward has rushed for 185 yards and is averaging 9.7 yards per carry, while Morris has caught eight passes for 145 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Sparks said the Eagles can expect to face a very aggressive unit with multiple looks.
"They move around a lot and like to press the line of scrimmage and like to see if they can get you outnumbered," he said. "They don't mind lining up to play man coverage without a safety. They are an in your face type defense. When you have that much ability, that's the way you do it."