Spartanburg, S.C. (November 8, 2003) --Wofford's Kevious Johnson rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns while All-America free safety Matt Nelson had a key interception and fumble recovery as the Terriers claimed the outright Southern Conference championship with a 28-14 win over East Tennessee State this afternoon at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.
ETSU took a 7-0 lead on a 45-yard scoring run by quarterback Michael George (Alcoa, Tenn.) with 8:16 left in the first quarter. Wofford immediately responded with a 12-play, 56-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard J.R. McNair scoring run to even the game at 7-7. The key play was a 2-yard run by quarterback Jeff Zolman on a 4th-and-2 at the ETSU 3-yard line.
A 40-yard second-quarter punt by Jimmy Miner was downed at the Buccaneer 1-yard line, setting up the Terriers' go-ahead score. On the second play of the ETSU series, a Kenny Harper (Knoxville, Tenn.) fumble was recovered by Nelson at the Buc 4 and returned to the 1-yard line. On the Terriers' second play, Johnson found the end zone from four yards out to give Wofford a 14-7 lead with 3:21 left in the second quarter.
It was Wofford's 42nd consecutive win when leading at the half. The Terriers are also 63-2-1 in 66 games under Ayers when holding the opponent to 16 points or less. Johnson had a career-long 44-yard run to highlight a 9-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a Trey Rodgers 3-yard run, giving Wofford a 21-7 lead with four minutes remaining in third quarter.
On the previous series, ETSU reached the Terrier 25-yard line before Nelson recorded his SoCon-leading fifth interception in the end zone. All five Nelson picks have come in the last seven weeks.
Another 80-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard Johnson touchdown carry, increased the Terrier margin to 28-7 with 12:33 remaining. McNair had a 2-yard run on a 4th-and-1 at the Buc 25-yard line. Gabriel Jackson had a 36-yard carry on the first play of the series.
A 2-yard Harper scoring run with 4:38 left provided the final margin as the Bucs closed to within 28-14.
"It was a tough football game," Ayers said. "(ETSU) Coach (Paul) Hamilton did a tremendous job with his staff and my hat goes off to those guys for hanging in there the way they did.
"I want to congratulate Wofford on its SoCon championship," ETSU coach (and former Wofford offensive coordinator under Ayers from 1988-89) Paul Hamilton said. "I'll be pulling for them in the playoffs and wish them the best.
The Terriers rushed for 355 yards, including 241 in the second half. Wofford totaled 373 in offense for the game. ETSU had 129 on the ground and 148 in the air for a total of 277.
McNair had 70 yards rushing on 21 carries while Rodgers had 51 yards on six attempts. Harper topped the Bucs with 55 yards on 13 carries. Carl Meadows came off-the-bench to complete 12-of-18 passes for 113 yards.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Cullen (Rosewell, Ga.) led the Bucs with a game-high 13 tackles on the afternoon. Cullen has led the team in tackles in five of ETSU's last six games, and in all but two games this season. He has also recorded double-digit tackles in nine of ten games so far this year.
Senior linebacker Jamal Rocke (Buford, S.C.) was second on the Buccaneer defense with 11 tackles, while Scott Brumett (Pioneer, Tenn.) and Robbie Hardt (Poca, W.V.) each had a game-high three tackles for losses.
ETSU will close out the 2003 season with a pair of home games beginning with SoCon opponent Chattanooga. The Mocs will be in Johnson City on Saturday, Nov. 15. Kick off is at 1 p.m. in Memorial Center. The Buccaneers will wrap-up their season at home on Nov. 22 against The Citadel.