Cullowhee, N.C. (Sept. 28, 2002) - East Tennessee State rushed for 224 yards and sealed the contest with an interception return for a touchdown late in the contest to hand Western Carolina a 27-7 defeat Saturday night at Whitmire Stadium/Waters Field. With the win ETSU improves to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Conference, taking over sole posession of first place in the Southern Conference. Western falls to 3-2, 1-1 SoCon.
The Buccaneers had no trouble moving the ball in the first quarter, but only had seven points to show for their effort. After missing a field goal on its first possession, ETSU's Gaven Varner capped a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead. ETSU also missed a field goal on its third possession.
In addition to the missed field goals by the Bucs, Western's defense kept the Cats in the game. After Ahmed Green forced a fumble, which Teddy Burgis recovered, Western scored on a four-play, 20-yard drive. Brian Gaither finished things with a four-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.
After Western missed a 49-yard field goal attempt, ETSU was able to capitalize with a quick scoring drive to give the Bucs a 14-7 lead at the break. Cecil Moore ran 27 yards on an end around, the first of his collegiate career, on the first play of the drive to put ETSU in Western's territory. Six plays later, Sanders and Moore hooked on a pass play for nearly 20 yards to get to the WCU eight. After an incomplete pass, the two teamed up again for an eight-yard TD with just 19 seconds left in the half.
East Tennessee State used two kickers to put six points on the board in the third quarter. First, Wes Sands split the uprights for a 39-yard field goal, give ETSU a 17-7 lead midway through the period. With just over three minutes left in the third, Jon Godfrey connected on a 22-yarder for a 20-7 Buc advantage.
Forced to abandon the rushing attack, Western threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. Gerald Sensabaugh picked off the second of the three and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to seal the Catamounts fate.
The Bucs were led by Scott Carter, who gained 92 yards on 17 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Defensively for ETSU, Allen Davis, Andrew Forester and Sensabaugh had interceptions, while Jamal Rocke, Brandon Carlton and Sensabaugh recovered WCU fumbles.
Jeb Hall led the Catamount defense with a career-high nine tackles, while Rod Dunlap had eight stops, including four for losses. Pat Cilento was Western's top rusher with 20 yards on four carries. Through the air, Cilento was 12-of-21 with two interceptions and 107 yards. Gaither was 4-of-23 with an interception.