Bucs lack offense in loss to Furman

By SETH BARTEE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- East Tennessee State's football season could be summed up in one quarter of Saturday's game against SoCon rival Furman. That quarter happened to be the third, in which the Bucs defense made the opportunities and the offense floundered them.
The Furman Paladins (if your wandering what a Paladin is, it's a medieval knight) defeated winless SoCon rivals ETSU 30-10.
The Bucs had their chance in early the third quarter when the Paladins fumbled on the kickoff, setting up ETSU on Furman's own 29-yard line. Then, after driving the ball to Furman's four, Andrew Nuckolls failed to convert a fourth-and-one, which led to a turnover on downs.
But it appeared that the Paladins, who had only allowed 16 second-half points this season, were trying to help the Buccaneers along.
With 11:07 left in the third quarter Furman punted on a short field, giving ETSU the ball on the Paladin 40 yard line. This time redshirt freshman quarterback Carl Meadows threw an incomplete pass on third-and-long to shut down the Bucs' scoring drive.
But the Bucs once again found luck on their side, which Coach Paul Hamilton has been wishing for since the beginning of the season, as Furman's freshman redshirt quarterback Josh Stepp fumbled deep in Paladin territory.
The Bucs took over on Furman's 15, only to gain a yard on a Gaven Varner rush. To sum up the worsening situation, a bad snap killed the Buccaneers chances for a field goal. Kicker, Jon Godfrey had already connected earlier in the game for a 42-yard field goal for ETSU's first score.
Former ETSU defensive coordinator Jeff Farrington, now an assistant for Furman, said that he misses Johnson City but he's glad to be where he's at.
"These guys are putting up a valiant effort just by coming out to play in these circumstances," said Farrington of ETSU. "The administration makes decisions that we as football coaches cannot control."
If control is having the opportunity put in your lap, then the Bucs' chance still laid in the third quarter.
Furman fumbled for the third time, with seven minutes left on the third-quarter clock, on the ETSU 24. The ball never crossed the 50 and again the Bucs had to punt.
ETSU's defense again stopped the Paladins and forced a punt, which went off the side of punter's foot to start them on Furman's own 30. This time the Bucs hit paydirt, starting the fourth quarter with a Varner 1-yard scoring run to make the game 17-10 Furman.
"I really felt we had a chance to win today," said Hamilton. "We were in some tough situations and failed to score on turnovers in the third quarter."
Freshman can get the game won also. Furman finally put the game out of reach when Josh Stepp ran for 21 yards in the fourth to put the Paladins up 27-10. Stepp completed his first touchdown pass Saturday when he connected with Brian Bratton on a 21-yard strike in the second quarter.
"I really think we could have beat them had five or six plays been different," said Hamilton on his team's fourth SoCon loss this season. "Its hard to run an offense with two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. What we need is another spring practice, but that will have to happen for them somewhere else."
The Bucs' positives on Saturday were Jon Godfrey's 42-yard field goal in the first quarter and 130 yards gained in kickoff returns. ETSU's only touchdown in the fourth quarter made Furman's total points given up in the second half come to a total of 23.
ETSU will face Georgia Southern next week in Johnson City at 1 p.m. The last time these two teams faced off in the Mini Dome, ETSU won.