Winners of five NCAA Division-II National Championships and 21 South Athletic Conference titles, Carson-Newman has a rich tradition in football.
Humboldt State made history in 2015 by compiling a 10-2 overall record, capturing the Great Northwest Athletic Conference crown and earning its first playoff win in 47 years.
Central Valley High School grad/junior running back Ja'Quan Gardner and the 13th-ranked Lumberjacks opened their 88th season of competition with a thrilling 52-45 victory over the host Eagles on Thursday at Burke-Tarr Stadium in Tennessee.
The two teams combined for 97 points during the non-conference game.
Ja'Quan ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 86 yards. Gardner had 224 yards of total offense.
"Ja'quan worked very hard in the offseason and is stronger this year," Humboldt State head coach Rob Smith said leading up to the 2016 season opener. "He has the benefit of an additional year experience. Last season's experience brought with it a great deal of success and personal recognition, and deservedly so, but he is also the first one to tell you that his accomplishments were the result of his teammates and his teammates doing things at a high level as well."
Gardner tallied the game-winning touchdown. His 35-yard TD run broke a 45-45 tie with 44 seconds left to play.
He also scored on a 1-yard run at the 6:46 mark of the fourth quarter.
Ja'Quan carried the ball 12 times for 82 yards in the final period.
Gardner scampered 12 yards for a touchdown and hauled in a 43-yard pass in the first quarter.
Humboldt State junior quarterback Robert Webber had a big game thanks in large part to the attention Carson-Newman's defense paid to 2015 Harlon Hill Trophy runner-up and All-American Gardner.
Webber completed 24 of 33 passes for 380 yards and three scores.
The Humboldt State-Carson-Newman game, which was played in front of 3,084 fans, was broadcast on ESPN3. "Ja'Quan is special and needs the football in his hands," Humboldt State offensive coordinator Eric Tripp said. "Our goal is to take advantage of his many talents as a football player and put him in positions to improve the offense."