No. 19 Carson-Newman (3-1, 2-0 SAC) eked out a 35-33 road win over Catawba (2-2, 1-1 SAC) Saturday afternoon at Shuford Stadium. The Eagles held tight on a late fake punt and used a 30 yard touchdown connection from De’Andre Thomas to TraShaun Ward to seal the victory.
Carson-Newman had lost to Catawba four straight years before Saturday’s win over the Indians. The Eagles gave up a season high 506 yards of total offense. However, for the fourth straight week, the Eagles rolled up more than 460 yards of offense.
Thomas turned in a stellar performance with 104 yards and four scores on the ground. He also completed 11 of 16 passes for 173 yards and the touchdown pass to Ward.
The junior from Milledgeville, Ga. moved into the top 10 on Carson-Newman’s all-time rushing touchdowns list. He has 29 touchdowns for his career which ties him for ninth on the all-time list with Nate Inman.
Andy Hibbett posted his third straight 100 yard rushing performance with 118 yards on 21 carries. The game was Carson-Newman’s first with multiple 100 yard rushers since three Eagles crested the century mark in the Eagles’ regular season finale in 2013 against Wingate.
Carson-Newman started with a highly methodical drive. The Eagles directed a 14 play, 70 yard drive that wrapped up with a three yard Thomas option keeper over the left side of the line. Catawba was forced to punt on its first drive.
Catawba later countered after Randall Freeman coughed up a fumble. The Indians used the short field to go 51 yards in six plays. Carlos Tarrats snagged his fifth touchdown catch on a 22-yard post pattern.
The Eagles rounded out their first half scoring with a 15-play 75-yard drive that saw Thomas plunge in from a yard out on a one yard QB sneak.
The Indians would come within a score on a Sheehan sneak and had a chance to knot the game but a Chad Hollandsworth 35 yard field goal sailed wide left in the final moments of the half.
Carson-Newman and Catawba traded scores through the third quarter. The Eagles held a tenuous 28-20 lead heading to the fourth. But Catawba finished out a 10 play, 80 yard drive with a Cary Littlejohn run that bounced outside to the right to pull the Indians within two.
Catawba went for two, but Sheehan’s pass to Tyler Hamilton was complete in the back of the end zone, but Hamilton’s heels were out of bounds. Catawba would get a chance to get on top after the Eagles went three and out on their ensuing possession.
The Indians drove down to Carson-Newman’s 41 on their next possession. An incomplete pass and a failed fake punt gave the ball back to the Eagles. Carson-Newman took four plays to find the end zone on Ward’s 30-yard TD catch.
Catawba added a six-yard TD to Gary Williams with 2:53 left in the game, but the Eagles were able to run out the clock.
The win concludes a three-game stretch away from Burke-Tarr Stadium. The Eagles are home to open up October against Mars Hill. The contest has been dubbed a Pink Out in honor of breast cancer awareness and Take a Kid to The Game Day. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.