Bucs need win to secure winning record

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   JOHNSON CITY- You probably won't find a professor asking his or her class when was the last time ETSU had three-straight winning seasons, but the Bucs can change the answer to that question Thursday in Lexington, Va.
   The Bucs will be looking to make ETSU football history on Thanksgiving Day when they play VMI at Alumni Memorial Field. Gametime is set for 12 noon.
   With a victory, ETSU can clinch its third-straight winning season. That has happened since the Bucs had four-straight winning seasons from 1952-1955.
   "We still have a lot to play for," ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton said.
   ETSU could have clinched a winning season last week, but were defeated by Wofford 24-3 in a game that saw the Bucs struggle on both sides of the football.
   "It was really a tough loss for our football team because emotionally our team really wanted to win that football game" Hamilton said.
   The VMI game was originally supposed to be played on Sept. 15, but was postponed after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.
   VMI comes into contest at 1-9 overall, and 1-6 in the SoCon, while the Bucs are 5-5 overall, and 3-4 in league play.
   According to Hamilton, the Bucs are not taking the Keydets lightly.
   "We're playing a team that is not indicative of the way they play in Lexington," Hamilton said. "I know they have to be disappointed with the way the season has turned out record wise for them, but on the other hand they led Appalachian State 17-14 at home with about 4:30 or 5:00 left to play in the ball game.
   "I think when you play them at VMI, they're a much more difficult team to beat."
   The Keydets feature a talented quarterback in Joey Gibson, and Hamilton knows the Bucs will have their hands full with him.
   "I'm extremely impressed with Joey Gibson," Hamilton said. "I think he's a fine quarterback. He really spreads the ball around as far as throwing. He does a nice job moving around, and makes some things happen.
   "He's a guy we've got great concern with as far as what he can do with that offense."
   Hamilton is also concerned about the VMI defense.
   "They're strongly sized, and they've got some kids in the tackle box that do a good job as far as defending the run," Hamilton said.
   The Bucs, who have faced injury problems all season, lost two more players this week. Slotback Andrew Nuckolls and Wide receiver Charvin Clark were injured at Wofford, and will be out for this one.
   This will be the last game for the ETSU seniors. They've had a lot of ups and downs at ETSU, but Hamilton wants them to go out on a good note and earn another winning season.
   "I think this is a very important game for the senior class," Hamilton said. "There have been a lot of guys who have come through this program that have put on that uniform that have not accomplished what these kids can do if we can win Thursday.
   "For a senior class to be able to say they did something that hasn't been done in 46 years gives them something to play for."
   Hamilton is also looking ahead to next year. Georgia Southern and Furman will be facing tough graduation losses, but the Bucs will have most of their squad back for the 2002 campaign.
   ETSU will also have the services of quarterback Dashannon Gamble. He was academically ineligible this fall, but will be back for spring practice.
   Gamble would have probably been the team's starting quarterback this season.
   Hamilton thinks the future is bright.
   "I like where I think we can go," Hamilton said. "I think we've got a chance to better next year, and even better the year after that. I think we have the potential the next several years to be a good football team."
   ETSU NOTES
   * For those of you who will be spending Thanksgiving Day at Alumni Memorial Field, the game is free to the public.