Paladins feed 25-0 shutout to Buccaneers

By Allen LaMountain

   JOHNSON CITY -- For nearly 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Center the East Tennessee State Buccaneer defense slowed the high-octane offense of the Furman University Paladins to a crawl. In the last 1:30 of the second period, and the opening of the third period, Furman got its offense cranked up putting two touchdowns on the board for a 19-0 lead enroute to a 25-0 whitewashing of the Bucs.
   ETSU sees it Southern Conference record fall to 2-3 (4-5 overall), while Furman improved to 4-1 SoCon (6-2 overall) and should be able to maintain its number four ranking in the Sports Network NCAA Division 1-AA poll.
   Furman's Bear Reinhart returned a punt 66 yards in the closing moments of the first half, and senior QB Billy Napier led a 76-yard scoring drive to open the third period as the Paladins took command of what had been a tightly-contested ballgame.
   "That third quarter drive was a big factor in the game," said Napier who finished his night with 17-of-26 passing for 183 yards and one touchdown. "It made them kind of fold up their tents a little bit. Reinhart's punt return hurt them, but the drive to open the second half put them away."
   After a missed 50-yard field goal by ETSU in the second period, Furman drove from its own 32-yard line to paydirt to take a 6-0 lead at the 14:55 mark of the second stanza. WR Brian Bratton hauled in a 19-yard strike from Napier for the score, but kicker Danny Marshall's PAT attempt was blocked.
   Scott Salmons then missed on a 38-yard field goal try which would have cut the Paladin lead in half, but his kick sailed wide left and the Bucs had missed another scoring opportunity.
   "You have to be able to get points off turnovers," said ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton. "If a team like Furman gives you an opportunity to get points you have to get them. It's a tough loss. Furman is a very good team with great offensive balance. They made the plays to move the sticks and I commend them. They did what it took to get a win.
   "That play they made on the punt, and the drive in the second half were very demoralizing to our team. I think we did a lot of positive things, and I think if we had gone into the half down just 6-0 we may have had a better opportunity to win the game."
   Each team traded turnovers in the second quarter with Furman's Torieco O'Neal fumbling the ball away to ETSU's Tony Tiller at the 37-yard line, but Bucs QB Jatavis Sanders was intercepted soon after by Furman's T.J. Wilson.
   Marshall hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal attempt for the Paladins and ETSU took over at the 21-yard line. Three-plays later Aaron Bass hit a beautiful punt that traveled 54 yards before Reinhart fielded the ball at the 34-yard line.
   Reinhart raced left, then cut back against the grain and beat a tackle attempt by Bass at the 15-yard line and cruised into the end zone. Napier's pass to Emerson for the two-point conversion was batted away and Furman went into the break with a 12-0 advantage.
   "The punt return gave us a 12-point lead when we expected to be up by six," said Furman head coach Bobby Lamb. "The drive in the third quarter gave us an 19-0 lead and allowed us to really put the pressure on. My quarterback did a nice job running the offense. He made decisions based on the way they were slanting their defense, and he made a lot of nice calls."
   On Furman's first possession of the second half RB Hindley Brigham took over as he darted for a 12 and then a 17-yard gain on the first two plays of the third quarter, as the Paladins drove 76 yards on 11 plays with Emerson busting in from two yards out.
   With 11 minutes left in the game Napier scored on a one-yard plunge to seal the win for the Paladins.
   Sanders had a rough outing for ETSU with 16-of-31 passing for just 132 yards, and he was disappointed with the loss -- and with the performance of the offense, saying: "We didn't do the job for the defense. They we're out there a long time. We moved the ball, but just didn't make the third down plays."
   Gaven Varner led the Bucs ground game with 84 yards on 17 carries while Furman's tandem of Brigham and Lamar Rembert rushed for 76 and 75 yards, respectively.
   Bucs notes: Cecil Moore caught four passes for 61 yards, but he and Sanders missed on a long pass that Sanders overthrew by a slim margin. That play would have gone for six, and may have opened things up for the Bucs, but was instead a microcosm of the ETSU football season -- close, but not enough. ETSU travels to Georgia Southern next week, while Furman enjoys a bye.