ETSU labors in defeating Mars Hill

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Football games aren't beauty contests. You can win playing ugly.
   The East Tennessee State Buccaneers proved that Saturday night.
   Despite a lackluster performance that saw Division II Mars Hill garner more offensive yards than the Bucs, ETSU managed to pull off a 20-10 victory over the Mountain Lions in Memorial Center.
   "Our football right now has got a long ways to go," ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton said. "We have a lot of work to do. I'm not trying to discredit in any way Mars Hill. I knew this was not going to be an easy football game for us. But on the other hand, I'm not pleased with some things I'm seeing out of our football team right now."
   One of those things happens to be the offensive production. The game was a 7-7 tie for most of the contest, and it was pretty much a punt fest.
   ETSU's first lead didn't occur until the 14:56 mark of the fourth quarter, when Scott Carter rumbled in from 13 yards out to give the Bucs a 14-7 advantage.
   The Bucs only had 269 yards on the evening, compared to Mars Hill's 298.
   "There's no question that we've got to get some kind of direction on offense," Hamilton said. "What's frustrating about it right now is that it's not like we're not trying to find direction on offense. We're working as hard as we can to try and make sure we do the right things. But the bottom line is, I don't care what we run, we've got to start controlling the football a little bit more. We've also got to do a better job of getting the ball into the end zone when we have opportunities. I promise you that I will start working tonight."
   Special teams play was also a thorn in the side for the Bucs. One of those plays included a fake punt by The Lions' Josh Black, who completed a 28-yard pass to JaQuan Winston that eventually set up a field goal.
   ETSU only gave up those three points on the drive after the 'Buc defense held Mars Hill in check. Mars Hill's Craig Williams belted a kick from 30 yards, and the score was 14-10.
   "A couple of things in the kicking game were very disappointing to me," Hamilton said. You don't let a team like that stay in the hunt like we did tonight."
   Jason Davis was the starter at quarterback for the Bucs, but Dashannon Gamble and Jatavis Sanders received most of the snaps as the quarterback controversy continues.
   Gamble seemed the most polished, as he completed both his pass attempts and also rushed for 38 yards.
   Both of those pass completions by Gamble just happened to be for touchdowns. The latter one sealed the deal, as he found All-American candidate Cecil Moore for a 38-yard score.
   "I was just waiting in the wings," Gamble said. "I was waiting to make a big play. That's what I like to do. I like to make plays. But I commend my teammates. They all worked hard, they played hard all week. I want to thank my offensive line. They did a great job tonight. I'm nothing without them. But I'm just glad we won the game."
   Gamble lost the starting job after his performance against N.C. State, but didn't hold a grudge about it.
   "When I'm called on, I like to go out there and play," Gamble said. "That's what it's about, playing the game of football. Whether you start, whether you're on the bench, it's a team effort. Everybody's got to come together to help the team win the game."
   The Buccaneer defense continues to play reasonably well, but suffered a couple of blows Saturday night. Linebacker Marco Bryant and defensive back Tony Tiller were injured, and they join defensive end Travis Williams and linebacker Mike Cornegay on the injured list.
   The 'Buc defense still did fine without them, and the unit is having to pretty much having to carry the team with the stagnant offense.
   Linebacker Scott Brumett, who led the Bucs with 13 tackles, says the defense can't worry about the offense.
   "We just feel when the ball comes on the field, we've got to stop it," Brumett said. "It doesn't matter what the offense does, we've got to come out there and stop it."
   Carter led the Bucs in rushing with 60 yards on the ground. Mars Hill's Travis McFadden led all running backs with 103 yards on 32 carries.
   Moore bounced back from a tough performance against N.C. State. He had three catches for 93 yards.
   Aaron Bass punted eight times for an average of 45.6. yards-per-punt.
   The Bucs will be back in action next Saturday night against Gardner-Webb in Boling Springs N.C.