ETSU closes home slate in style

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   JOHNSON CITY -- A young man may have kept waving a fraternity flag in Memorial Center Saturday afternoon, but the East Tennessee State Buccaneer defense showed the Mocs that rush week had already passed them by.
   The Bucs allowed only 77 yards on the ground, and forced four
   Chattanooga turnovers en route to a 32-10 homecoming victory over the Mocs.
   With ETSU stopping the run, the Mocs tried to beat the Bucs with the passing game, but three of the four turnovers came on interceptions.
   Overall, ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton was pleased with how the defense continues to excel.
   "Our defensive football players continue to play with a lot of aggressiveness," Hamilton said. "They really play with a lot of enthusiasm."
   It was the special teams that came up big early on for the Bucs. After the ETSU defense had stifled the Mocs, Travis Grubb was forced to punt in the end zone.
   That ended up being a disaster as Charvin Clark blocked Grubb's kick out of the end zone to give the Bucs a safety and an early 2-0 lead.
   ETSU then scored on its next possession when quarterback Matt Wilhjelm connected with Andrew Nuckolls for an 18-yard touchdown strike to put the Bucs up 9-0 with 7:34 to go in the first quarter.
   "We had a corner route and a man coverage," Wilhjelm said. "I got hit just as soon as I threw it, so the ball didn't come off real clean. I thought it was going to be an interception, but I heard Nuckolls made a good play on it and got into the end zone. I owe him a steak dinner."
   The Bucs couldn't muster another score until after halftime, but the defense did all they could to make sure ETSU still had the lead at the intermission.
   With the Bucs up 9-3 late in the second quarter, the Mocs caught a break when Corey Carter's fumble and an ETSU penalty gave Chattanooga the football at the ETSU 11-yard line.
   The Mocs had fourth and one at the ETSU 2-yard line when the Mocs decided to go for it. But on that play, ETSU's Andrew Simmons forced Maurice Wilson to fumble. Chuck Spearman then picked the ball up, but was met by Tony Tiller.
   The Bucs kept their 9-3 lead, and never looked back.
   ETSU scored again with 6:09 to go in the third quarter when Nick Spearman closed out a very successful drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 15-3. But the first play of the drive was definitely the most remarkable one of the day.
   Wilhjelm found Tim Turner way down the field for a 50-yard connection that put the Bucs at the Mocs 30.
   The speedy Turner had been almost nonexistent in the ETSU offense this season until this play.
   "I give all the praise, honor and glory to the Lord," Turner said. "Me personally, it didn't matter. It's about the team."
   The Bucs really broke open a close game about a minute after the touchdown. With Chattanooga at its own 20-yard line, Scott Brumet picked off quarterback Chuck Spearman, and scampered into the end zone to give ETSU a commanding 22-3 advantage.
   For the linebacker, the interception for a touchdown is a special but rare occurrence.
   "Not very many," Brumet said when a reporter asked how many times he had a ball thrown right to him. "I haven't had one of these since high school."
   The Mocs changed quarterbacks on its next possession, but he found things just as rough. Kurtis Kostner came in on third and six, and was picked off on his first passing attempt by Allen Davis, who returned the football 34 yards to the Chattanooga 11.
   "Allen's been doing it all year long," Brumet said.
   Wilhjelm took advantage of the situation by throwing his second touchdown of the afternoon. This time he hit Nick Hendrickson for an 11-yard scoring strike to give ETSU a 29-3 cushion with 1:41 to go in the third quarter.
   The Bucs were up 32-3 before Chattanooga scored a touchdown late in the contest. The Mocs first and only touchdown of the game happened late in the fourth when Jeremy Grier caught a 40-yard pass in the end zone from Justin Barnes.
   "I hated to see that touchdown at the end," Hamilton said. "They worked so hard to keep them out of the end zone."
   One negative for the Bucs was the running game. Terry Copeland padded the statistics late with two carries for 39 yards, but the rest of the Bucs struggled.
   Wilhjelm had a productive afternoon, going 11-of-22 with no interceptions. Wilhjelm also threw competitions to seven different players.
   Chattanooga's Charles McNeill led all rushers with 43 yards on 15 carries.
   The Mocs fall to a dismal 2-7 overall, while the Bucs are now 5-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play. ETSU is over .500 for the first time this season.
   "It feels so good," Hamilton said "We're not where we need to be yet, but I feel gratified with where we're at."
   The Bucs will play at Wofford next Saturday.