Bucs remain model of inconsistency

By Allen LaMountain

   JOHNSON CITY - On a record-setting night, the East Tennessee State Buccaneers continued to prove themselves the most enigmatic team in the Southern Conference. Just as surely as Dick Van Dyke will trip over the ottoman, the Bucs will find a way to trip over prosperity.
   Every season the Bucs seem to find the right combination to take the team to another level, by pulling off a win no one said they could, only to crash and burn with a disheartening loss the following week.
   Last week the Bucs traveled to Cullowhee and defeated Western Carolina convincingly, as the defense stepped up with six turnovers, one for a score by safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
   On Saturday, Appalachian State set the record straight on who was going to be leading the SoCon when the night was over. It would be the Mountaineers, not the Bucs.
   What has to be frustrating to Bucs head coach Paul Hamilton is that the team seems to progress one week and digress the next, and against Appy it was an almost total breakdown.
   Beginning with a muffed punt by Cecil Moore that gave Appalachian the ball back deep in Bucs territory after a nice defensive stand had forced the Mountaineers to surrender the football, the malaise and mental errors seemed to grip the entire squad.
   The offensive line leaked like a sieve and forced quarterback Jatavis Sanders to run out of the collapsing pocket time after time.
   "Appy threw some stunts at our young offensive line and it confused our blocking," said Sanders. "Gaven was running good early, but we fell behind and had to go away from the run and just throw and throw."
   In defense of his offensive line Hamilton said, "Appy has a lot of outstanding, athletic players on their defensive front. Their quickness and movement makes it tough to block them."
   It wasn't any one aspect of ETSU's game that let themselves down it was every unit, as Appy missed on a few big plays that were there for the taking which could have made it even worse than the 29-10 contest it ended up being.
   "It forces you to be one-dimensional when you get behind in a ballgame," said Hamilton. "We aren't the kind of team that can throw the ball down after down. I don't think there is a team in the entire league that can do that. There were situations in which we would have liked to run the football, but given the score and time remaining you can't. You end up digging yourself a deeper hole if you don't make yards and you end up second and long or third and long."
   The defensive secondary, with pre-season All-America candidate Tony Tiller and pre-season second team All-SoCon players Montreal Harkley and Sensabaugh would seem solid as they held Mountaineer QB Joe Burchette to 157 yards, but that is misleading.
   In the running game the secondary was invisible in run support as Appalachian ran several reverse plays to take advantage of Buccaneer over pursuit and it worked every time as Sensabaugh and Harkley would chase down the reverse and leave RB's Jerry Beard and Chris Thomas room to run off tackle.
   Beard gained 93 yards on 13 carries as Appalachian rushed for 226 yards against a defense that had surrendered just 71 yards rushing and 217 total yards of offense against Western Carolina.
   Inconsistency. It is the bane of all coaches, because the coaches know that it is their responsibility to make sure the team plays at an even level week-in-week-out, but inconsistency seems to be the only way to define Buccaneer football.
   Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore broke a 52-year old Southern Conference record for most wins by a head coach on Saturday night. With the Mountaineers 29-10 win Moore broke the record of Duke University head coach Wallace Wade with his 111th SoCon win.
   Wade won 110 games over his career at Duke which spanned from 1931-41 and 1946-50.
   Moore owns a 139-100-2 career record has won 111 games with Appalachian State while losing just 52 and Burchette of his coach.
   "We wanted to win the three games the coach needs to get the record," said Appy State QB Joe Burchette. "He's like a father figure to a lot of guys on the team. He's always there when you need him and this team loves to play for him. It's a privilege for me to play for Coach Moore."
   The Bucs go on the road next week to take on The Citadel (0-2 SoCon, 1-4 overall) who played Wyoming tough in a 34-30 loss. The Bucs should be able to handle the Bulldogs if they keep WR Scooter Johnson under control. Johnson was the leading receiver in the SoCon going into Saturday's action with 27 catches for 358 yards. Overall the Bulldogs offense is capable of putting up big numbers as they have scored 92 points this season.