Gamble makes statement at quarterback

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BRISTOL -- If you're a betting man, you might want to put your money on Dashannon Gamble to be the East Tennessee State starting quarterback in the fall.
   Gamble went 9-of-17 through the air, and rushed for another 49 yards in the Gold team's 16-6 victory over the Blue team in ETSU's annual Blue-Gold game at the Stone Castle.
   Gamble and Jason Davis were the two quarterbacks that saw action Saturday. Gamble started the day on the Gold team, and Davis was on the Blue, but they switched in the second half.
   Jatavis Sanders is the other quarterback in the equation, but he was out with a broken finger.
   Gamble, who was academically ineligible last season, felt like his performance happened because of his teammates.
   "It was a great opportunity," Gamble said. "It only came about by the help of my teammates behind me. They played just as good as I did today. It all came together. We worked as a team, and we got it done."
   ETSU head football coach Paul Hamilton thought Gamble took a giant leap in the race to be ETSU's starting quarterback.
   "Dashannon Gamble took some big steps today out on the field," Hamilton said. "If I'm on the other sideline coaching against him, he really scares you every time the ball is snapped. Leaving out of here, I feel good about watching him play today."
   Hamilton wouldn't admit that Gamble was now No. 1 on the depth chart, but admitted he will probably be the man to beat.
   "You would have to say that he's the guy that's got to be beaten out," Hamilton said. "He's a guy that when the lights come on he likes to play."
   While Gamble was impressive, Davis had a day to forget.
   The Virginia Tech transfer went 3-of-17 for 10 yards passing, and had one pickoff. Davis was also sacked several times.
   "We've just got to bring Jason on and let him learn the offense," Hamilton said.
   Mando Miller led the Bucs in rushing with 81 yards on 20 carries, but ETSU didn't get to show off the highly-touted Marcus Barnes very much due to an injury sustained in the second quarter on a hard hit by Keith Davis, who recovered the ball on the play.
   "If you give Marcus a little grass he's got a chance to make something happen," Hamilton said.
   Hamilton was very happy with Miller's performance.
   "I thought Mando Miller did a lot of good things today," Hamilton said. "We've got a couple of guys at tailback that can get up the field in a hurry on people. I feel good at tailback."
   Slotback Andrew Nuckolls also had a good day, as he scored the only touchdown of the day for the Gold team.
   His 25-yard scamper in the first quarter put the Gold up for good at 7-0.
   Nuckolls had a 54-yard touchdown run called back in the second quarter due to a hold.
   "I was disappointed in the first half because of the penalties," Hamilton said. "He got the ball in the end zone, and we had a holding call that probably cost us two more scores."
   But as you probably would expect, the defense was ahead of the offense in this one.
   All the scores after Nuckolls' touchdown were field goals, as the offenses were almost stagnant in the second half.
   The score was 13-3 at halftime, and the two teams traded field goals in the second half.
   Gamble believes the defense is going to be pretty tough this year.
   "We have the best defense in the conference," Gamble said. "There's no doubt that we have the best defense in the conference. When the defense comes together with the offense, we're probably going to be the team to beat in the Southern Conference."
   Scott Salmons deserves recognition for kicking the three Gold field goals. Jon Godfrey also had a nice day, as he nailed two field goals for the Blue team.
   This concludes the spring practice season for ETSU. The Bucs will open up at N.C. State on Aug. 31.