MARTIN, Tenn. (Sept. 11, 2003) -- Redshirt freshman quarterback Carl Meadows (Cummings, Ga.) hooked up with senior wide receiver Andrew Nuckolls (Tunnell Hill, Ga.) on a 22-yard touchdown to give the Bucs a 14-7 victory on the first possession of overtime Thursday night from Martin, Tenn.
With the win, the Bucs raise their record to 2-1 on the season, while UT-Martin falls to 1-2. The Bucs even their record in overtime games at 2-2 with the victory in the first-ever matchup between the in-state schools.
East Tennessee State opened the game by giving the Skyhawks a steady dose of running back Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.). The senior rushed for 96 yards in the first half and 162 yards in the game, but the Bucs could not get the ball in the end zone in the first half due to a strong effort by the UTM defense.
Tennessee-Martin took the lead with 10:37 remaining in the first half as wideout Sanders Trent hauled in a 50-yard strike from quarterback Brett Hall for the first touchdown of the night. The play immediately followed a block of an Aaron Bass (Clinton, Tenn.) punt by linebacker David Gilmore.
The Bucs came out of the locker room rejuvenated for the second half, tying the game with a touchdown just over two and a half minutes into the second quarter. After Varner rushed three times for 25 yards and Meadows completed two passes to senior fullback Nick Spearman (Summerville, S.C.), Nuckolls caught a screen pass and raced down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Following that drive, the defenses took over, as neither team mounted a serious threat for the remainder of the quarter. UT-Martin drove to the ETSU 33 with their opening drive of the fourth quarter, but running back Andrew Staten was stopped for no gain on fourth down by senior defensive end Travis Williams (Bristol, Tenn.) and redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Cullen (Roswell, Ga.).
The game got very interesting late in the fourth quarter, with ETSU players making plays that were literally game-saving. After a 49-yard punt return by Tennessee-Martin's Jason Coleman gave the Skyhawks the ball in ETSU territory with just over four minutes remaining, junior cornerback Allen Davis (Mullins, S.C.) made a leaping interception at the Buccaneer 17 yard line.
After a three-and-out by the Bucs, Coleman again had a long punt return, but as he was being tackled, ETSU junior running back Austin Smiley (Memphis, Tenn.) came up from behind and stripped the ball and covered it at the Buccaneer 21 with 2:42 left on the clock.
Tennessee-Martin then came up with a big play, intercepting Meadows at the ETSU 40 with just 1:30 remaining in regulation. The Skyhawks drove the ball deep into Buccaneer territory, eventually having a first and goal on the four with just seconds remaining. After the ETSU defensive line stuffed three rushing attempts, UTM went for a game-winning field goal on fourth and goal from the one. Kicker Brent Harris lined up for the kick, but Davis stormed in from the right corner and blocked the kick to send the game into overtime.
The Bucs wasted not time getting on the board in the overtime period, with the pass from Meadows to Nuckolls coming on just the third play. The defense again came up big on UT-Martin's subsequent drive, stopping the Skyhawks again in the red zone as junior safety Gerald Sensabaugh (Kingsport, Tenn.) knocked down a pass on fourth down to stall the drive at the ETSU three.
Meadows finished the evening 15-for-31 with 137 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception. Hall, his UT-Martin counterpart threw for 165 yards on 12-of-25 passing, but threw two interceptions and one touchdown.
Varner led the ETSU ground attack with his 32 carries for 162 yards while UTM was paced by Staten who earned 99 yards on 32 carries. It was the second game of the season that Varner had 30-or more carries and 160-or more yards. He had 165 yards on 37 carries in the season-opener against Eastern Michigan on Aug. 28.
Nuckolls led the Buccaneer receivers with five receptions for 64 yards and the two scores. Sophomore wideout Brian Matthews (Georgetown, S.C.) also had five catches, but for 35 yards. Coming into this season, Nuckolls had two receiving touchdowns and four touchdowns overall in his ETSU career. With two receiving touchdowns in each of the last two games, Nuckolls already has four TD's this season.
Several Buccaneers had big nights on the defensive side of the ball, led by Cullen who had 13 tackles, one for a loss. Sensabaugh had eight tackles while Williams and junior linebacker Scott Brumett (Pioneer, Tenn.) each had seven stops. Williams had three tackles for a loss while Brumett and senior linebacker Matt Palmer (Summerton, S.C.) each had two.
The Bucs return to action on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Elon for their Southern Conference season opener. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. from Rhodes Stadium in Elon, N.C.