In a match-up of top five teams in NCAA Division II football, A.J. Milwee was the difference.
North Alabama's veteran quarterback completed 31-of-45 passes for 401 yards and two touchdowns to lead the third-ranked Lions (2-0) to a 20-13 victory over No. 4 Carson-Newman (1-1) Thursday night at Burke-Tarr Stadium.
Milwee, who was a Harlon Hill Trophy finalist a year ago, kept the North Alabama offense moving in a game that was highlighted by the play of the defenses. Both teams were almost one dimensional on offense. The Lions managed just 58 yards rushing on 37 carries.
Carson-Newman rushed for 263 yards, but was just 7-of-17 through the
air for 87 yards.
Milwee completed nine passes each to receivers Joemal Campbell and Rocky Coleman, for 139 and 118 yards, respectively. His two touchdown completions were to Branden Pickett and Brandon Allredge - the latter coming with 6:36 remaining in the contest to break a 13-13 tie.
Buck Wakefield led the Carson-Newman offense with 96 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. Quarterback Alex Good added 94 yards and a score on 13 carries. Good was 6-of-14 through the air for 65 yards and two interceptions.
Carson-Newman struck first in the contest when Alex Good rumbled in from one-yard out at the 8:52 mark of the opening quarter. The touchdown capped a 9-play, 54 yard drive. Seymour High School graduate Carlos Lopez added the extra point.
True freshman Lopez, a former All-State kicker at SHS, hit his only extra-point attempt and averaged 62.7 yards on all three Carson-Newman kickoffs. He ended up splitting time against North Alabama with senior Eagles’ kicker Aubrey Ingham after Lopez was wide-left on a 42-yard field goal with 2:41 left in the first quarter. Lopez’s field goal attempt came at the end of a long Carson-Newman drive—the Eagles’ very next offensive series following their first-quarter touchdown—and would have been an easier make if not for a 15-yard illegal block penalty called on the Eagles two plays before Lopez’s fourth-down field goal attempt.
North Alabama got a 47-yard field goal from Tom Schneider 1:30 into the second quarter to cut the deficit to 7-3. The Lions drove the ball down to the C-N nine-yard line just before intermission, but they were unable to add to their total before time expired on the half.
North Alabama took its first lead of the game with 5:51 left in the third quarter on Milwee's four-yard pass to Pickett. A 23-yard field
goal by Schneider gave UNA a 13-7 advantage four seconds into the fourth quarter.
Carson-Newman finally found the end zone again when back-up quarterback Joel Statham led the Eagles on a six-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown run by Wakefield. Ingham's extra-point was blocked, leaving the score tied at 13-13.
The score wouldn't last long as Milwee hooked up with Alldredge for an 8-yard score on the Lions' ensuing possession. Milwee completed five passes in the drive and had a key ten-yard run on third-and-seven from near midfield.
Carson-Newman had the ball for two more possessions in the final five minutes of the game, but both drives ended at the C-N 46-yard line.
The last drive was halted with 23 seconds remaining when Good was picked off by Anton Bowen.
Carson-Newman was led on defense by Otis Ballard's 11 total tackles. Brian Brown added ten, including three for a loss. Mario Russell had
North Alabama's Michael Johnson had an outstanding game with 19 tackles—12 coming in the first half. Bobby Brooks had 11 stops and an interception. Nigelas Walker recovered a fumble.