Buccaneers regroup for Catamounts

By Seth Bartee
STAR CORRESPONDENT
The ETSU football team is like watching the Apollo try to come back to earth on very little fuel. Make that very little fuel with a spacecraft that only halfway works.
What ETSU football lacks in numbers and time, it does not lack in determination.
"We have such a thin roster of players now," said Coach Paul Hamilton. "Most of our best players are on defense because if we can't stop teams then there's no chance for us."
Coach Hamilton said this because the Bucs defense is tough. They're only allowing 12.2 points a game.
Unfortunately, this past Saturday, the Bucs special teams gave up a blocked punt on a short field in the first half. To start out the second half the Bucs offense gave up a fumble, both times Elon scored and that's all they needed to beat ETSU.
"I looked at the game tape, and we were very inconsistent on offense," said Hamilton. "We didn't seem to be making the plays when we needed to make them."
Freshman quarterback Carl Meadows was not on his best game Saturday, provoking Hamilton to say that all positions were open.
"Elon had 68 yards of offense at the half and we were losing," said Hamilton.
If Elon was tough, the Western Carolina Catamounts are going to be hellacious for the Bucs.
"This is by far the best team we have faced offensively and defensively this season," Hamilton said.
The Catamounts' quarterback, Brian Gaither, is a 6-3, 220 pound senior. Gaither threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, leading Western Carolina to a 28-21 win over The Citadel.
"They have some outstanding wide receivers and their strong tight ends," said Hamilton.
Gaither, in his award-winning week as the Southern Conference offensive player of the week, managed to complete 16 of 26 passes against The Citadel. He set up WCU sophomore wide receiver Xavier Godard on scores from 62 and 5 yards out. Godard leads the SoCon in scoring, as five of his nine receptions this season has gone for touchdowns.
"Our defense faces our biggest challenge of the year," said Hamilton.
The Western Carolina defense is ranked sixth in the SoCon just behind league leaders, 2-1 Wofford.
"We have to watch out for the Catamounts defensive ends," Hamilton said. "Nick McNeil and Michale Spicer are outstanding players."
WCU's scoring offensive is no pushover either.
The Catamounts are first in the SoCon in scoring offense, averaging 24 points a game. In pass efficiency, WCU is number two, behind Furman. But Hamilton realizes that the Bucs offensive line cannot be asked orders that they can't handle.
"We can't ask our offense to protect the ball 38 times in a game," said Hamilton.
Hamilton may have to rely on some miracles for the Bucs.
"We took 54 players to Elon Saturday and nine of those were walk-ons," Hamilton said.
WCU will be coming to Johnson City Saturday looking for their third straight win with a record of 2-2 overall.
The Bucs may have to rely on history Saturday. Six years ago, the Bucs defeated WCU 28-18 in Johnson City. At the time the Bucs then had a freshman quarterback, too, Todd Wells. He passed for 203 yards that day, reminding some people of current freshman QB Carl Meadows.
"Brock Pittman will be back, that will be a plus," said Hamilton. "We are thin on offense but that's just the nature of where we are at. Every game from now on will be a dog fight."
ETSU will play the Western Carolina Catamounts Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Mini Dome. This will be the Bucs' second home game of the season and their second Southern Conference game of the year.
SoCon Notes:
The Bucs will face a tough season within the competitive Southern Conference. Wofford now tied for first with Furman beat Georgia Southern last week 20-14. The Southern Conference is the most successful I-AA league in term of playoff winning percentage at .624. Western Carolina comes to ETSU this Saturday on the anniversary of their making it to the 1983 NCAA Divison 1-AA national championship game. Paul Hamilton will be looking to make their anniversary a sad one. He is 3-3 versus the Catamounts.