GREENVILLE, S.C. (Oct. 25, 2003) -- East Tennessee State had trouble capatilizing on opportunities early in the second half, while Furman scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Bucs 30-10 from Paladin Stadium in Greenville, S.C.
Furman's Josh Stepp, a redshirt freshman quarterback making only his second career start, completed 10-of-14 passes, including a 21-yard scoring strike to Brian Bratton, and later added a 21-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter to pace Furman (5-3, 3-2 SoCon) to its third straight triumph over East Tennessee State (3-5, 0-4 SoCon).
The contest represented the final meeting between the two schools following East Tennessee State's decision to terminate its football program following the season. Furman claimed the all time series 23-7.
My hats off to Paul Hamilton," said Furman head coach Bobby Lamb. "He's doing a great job with that team. They could have quit at any time today, but they hung in there and battled us all the way. I thought our defense, however, was the difference. They came up big, and our offense finally came through with some points in the second half. Josh Stepp grew up a lot today. He made plays with his arm and his legs."
"I felt like our team could come in here and compete and have a chance to win," said East Tennessee State head coach Paul Hamilton. "I really think five or six plays today determined the game. We gave up too many third and longs, and offensively we had a lot of chances to score but didn't capitalize."
Both teams traded field goals to open the contest before Furman used a fumble recovery by Mike Killian at the Buccaneer 21 to set up the game's first touchdown. A 1-yard plunge by fullback Brandon Berry with only seven seconds left in the first quarter gave the Paladins a 10-3 lead.
In the second quarter Furman extended its advantage to 17-3 when Stepp, on a third down and 14-play, connected with Bratton for a 21-yard touchdown strike at the 11:26 mark.
ETSU sophomore safety Primus Glover's (Springfield, Ga.) fumble recovery on the second half kickoff gave East Tennessee State the ball at the Furman 26, but the Buccaneers failed to
convert the scoring opportunity when, on a fourth-and-one play at the Paladin 3, Cam Newton stopped Buccaneer senior slotback Andrew Nuckolls (Dalton, Ga.) for no gain.
Two possessions later Glover's second fumble recovery of the contest and 22-yard return gave ETSU the ball at the Furman 15, but the Buccaneers failed to score again when a bad snap from center on a 31-yard field goal attempt was downed at the Furman 39.
Later in the quarter the Buccaneers finally cashed in on a Furman miscue, taking advantage of a 14-yard punt to the Paladin 30. Turning to senior running back Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.) for six consecutive rushes, East Tennessee State covered the 30 yards in eight plays for a touchdown, which came on a 1-yard plunge by Varner on a fourth-and-goal play to make it 17-10 with 14:05 to go.
Furman responded with a 57-yard kickoff return by Daric Carter to the Buccaneer 23, and four plays later Danny Marshall converted his second field goal of the contest, a 38-yard effort, to increase the Furman advantage to 20-10.
Two possessions later Furman took control of the game. A Stepp 35-yard pass to Bratton to the ETSU 45 was followed by back-to-back completions to Isaac West covering 10 and 16 yards. Two plays later Stepp scrambled up the middle 21 yards and into the end zone to complete a five-play, 80-yard drive that gave the Paladins a 27-10 lead at the 4:08 mark.
A sack and fumble recovery by Travis Jones at the East Tennessee State 13 led to a Marshall 20-yard field goal his third of the game at the 1:45 juncture.
Redshirt freshman Scott Butler (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Carl Meadows (Cumming, Ga.) split time at quarterback, with Butler going 7-for-11 with 56 yards and Meadows going 6-of-15 with 52 yards through the air.
Varner led the Bucs with 19 carries for 48 yards, while Nuckolls had 39 yards on three rushes. Varner also led the team in receiving, hauling in four passes for 29 yards.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Cullen (Roswell, Ga.) led the Bucs in tackles with 10 as senior linebacker Matt Palmer (Summerton, S.C.) and senior safety Montreal Harkley (Hanahan, S.C.) each had nine stops. Palmer had five tackles for a loss, giving him 18.5 on the season. He is just 2.5 short of the school record, set by James Russell in 1994 and matched by Derek Fudge in 1996. As a whole, the Buccaneer defense had 12 tackles for a loss this afternoon.
East Tennessee State will return home to host Georgia Southern next Saturday in a 1:00 p.m. game from Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tenn.