Elon, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2003) -- An injury-plagued East Tennessee State football team fell to Elon Saturday in the Southern Conference opener for the Buccaneers at Rhodes Stadium in Elon, 14-0.
"This was one of the most difficult ballgames I have coached in since I've been here," said ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton. "Our defense played well enough to win, but we did things offensively that cost us the game."
ETSU (2-2, 0-1 SoCon) held the Phoenix to just 45 yards passing, but allowed 182 yards on the ground. Meanwhile the Buccaneers struggled to get the offense going with some key injuries on the offensive line and the loss of starting running back Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.) for a period of time.
After a blocked punt gave the Phoenix (2-2, 1-1 SoCon) great field position on ETSU's four-yard line, Elon broke a scoreless tie at the 6:48 mark in the second half, when Phoenix quarterback Anthony Crews found the endzone on a one-yard QB sneak, helping the home team to a 7-0 advantage. Elon struck again with 10:10 to play in the third quarter on a 37-yard touchdown run by Crews, which gave the Phoenix a 14-0 lead following the extra point by William Rawls.
Crews was just 6-of-13 passing, while ETSU quarterback Carl Meadows completed 14-of-38 passes for 144 yards. Meadows connected with eight different ETSU receivers, but the redshirt freshman QB was sacked a total of three times in the contest, including twice by Elon's senior defensive end Wesley Wheeler.
"I knew this game was going to be tight," said Hamilton. "We had some chances to make some plays, but we just didn't make them."
The Buccaneers had the opportunity to take an early lead, but kicker Jonathan Godfrey's (Johnson City, Tenn.) 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left early in the second quarter.
Despite limited action in the backfield, Varner rushed for over 100 yards for the third time in four games this season. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound tailback carried the ball 18 times for 102 yards.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Frank Green (Monks Corner, S.C.) caught a team-high three receptions for the Bucs for 45 yards.
Defensively, ETSU was led by senior linebacker Mike Cullen (Roswell, Ga.), who recorded nine tackles. Senior cornerback Tony Tiller (Lithonia, Ga.) had one pass breakup and one fumble recovery.
"This is certainly a disheartening loss," said Hamilton. "But we'll be ready next week."
The Buccaneers will be back at home next Saturday, when they play host to Western Carolina. Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Memorial Center.