Bucs fall short against GSU

By Seth Bartee
STAR Correspondent

   JOHNSON CITY--Sometimes it does not matter who is at the helm of the ship because it's going to sink anyway. When you're at the helm of ETSU football, all you can do is hope that in the end you went down gracefully with the crew.
   At the helm this season for the Bucs have been three different quarterbacks. Two have been redshirt freshmen, and one a sophomore that had never seen time playing college ball before Saturday.
   Michael George came into the game for ETSU Saturday on its second drive after Scott Butler threw an interception that was run back for a 91-yard touchdown by the Georgia Southern Eagles. Although George was an improvement over ETSU's past two leaders at the helm, the Buccaneers' offense failed to prove itself as worthy as the defense, losing their 11th straight SoCon game, against Georgia Southern, (5-4, 3-3), 34-22.
   A tired and frustrated-looking Paul Hamilton says that the character of his team is worth more points than the scoreboard can hold, but it's the third quarter in which the Bucs cannot continue their momentum.
   "We have not been playing against creampuff teams," said Hamilton about the toughness of the Buccaneers' schedule. "We have got to get the offense on the field in the third quarter or we are not going to be successful."
   The Bucs went into the third quarter with the momentum on their side even though they were down 17-10. After giving up an interception on their first drive that turned into a field goal for the Eagles, and a deflected Butler pass that ended up in the hands Terence McBride, who took the ball for a 91-yard touchdown to put the Bucs down 10-0 in the first quarter, ETSU recovered and brought the game back into its reach.
   In a 13-play, 68-yard drive, Michael George led the Bucs to their first score of the afternoon. At second and goal on the six yard line, Gaven Varner scored on a 6-yard run in the first.
   "My eyes lit up when Coach Hamilton asked me to get ready to go on the field," said George, a sophomore and former Alcoa High School standout. "Gaven made my job real easy today."
   Defense continued to be ETSU's explosive force as Gerald Sensabaugh blocked his first punt in his record-tying day. Sensabaugh blocked a fourth-and-two punt which led to a 47-yard field goal by Jon Godfrey to tie up the game at 10 apiece in the second quarter.
   As soon as the Bucs tied the game up, the Eagles showed why they are always at the top of the SoCon. Jermain Austin found a gaping hole in the middle and ran 78 yards to put the Eagles up 17-10 to go into the half.
   "We have not been getting the big plays this season, which is Georgia Southern football," said Mike Sewak, second-year head coach. "We play a bunch of players; we try to get all of them in the game sometime."
   The third quarter contained the same woes that ETSU has seen all season. ETSU gave up a touchdown, field goal and another touchdown before scoring again the fourth quarter. But down 34-10 in the fourth quarter, Sensabaugh again blocked another punt and was run in by James Rainer to make the game 34-16.
   Like de ja vu, he did it again two minutes later with 2:29 left in the game to set up the Bucs for another score. George hit Frank Green from 36 yards out to end up the game 34-22.
   "I saw their scheme was the same for the first two plays and it just kind of happened," said Sensabaugh about his Division 1-AA record tying day for blocked punts. "The last time they put a small guy to protect the punter but I figured we could push him over."
   Buccaneer Notes:
   Hamilton said he will start George next week against No. 5 Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C.
   Gaven Varner rushed for his fifth 100-yard game of the season. He had 161 yards Saturday and one touchdown.
   The SoCon leader in tackles, freshman Mike Cullen had 12 tackles at GSU behind teammates Scott Brummett and Tate Pittman, who each had 13.