JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 27, 2001) - East Tennessee State scored 12 of their 19 points off turnovers as the Buccaneers defeated the No. 1 ranked Georgia Southern Eagles, 19-16 from Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tenn. Saturday night.
The Eagles (7-1, 5-1 Southern Conference) began the game on top with field goals to end their first two drives from kicker Scott Shelton. The first quarter ended with the Eagles in front 6-0.
Georgia Southern began the second half with another Shelton field goal with 12:50 remaining after an ETSU (3-4, 2-3) fumble. The Eagles would take that 9-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Buccaneer defense would step it up in the third quarter as safety Montreal Harkley (Hanahan, S.C.) caused Georgia Southern quarterback Melvin Cox to fumble on the third play of the half. Harkley would fall on the ball at the Georgia Southern 29. On the second play of ETSU's ensuing drive, senior quarterback Matt Wilhjelm (Johnson City, Tenn.) connected with junior wide receiver Cecil Moore (Morristown, Tenn.) for a 27-yard touchdown with 13:28 remaining in the third quarter. Following a missed extra point, ETSU had drawn within three points at 9-6.
On the following drive, ETSU defensive end Brandon Calton (Pennington Gap, Va.) would fall on a failed pitch from Cox at the Georgia Southern 29. After two plays and a penalty, Wilhjelm would connect again with Moore, this time on a 35-yard score on third and 16. Moore made a phenomenal catch after the ball had been tipped by a Georgia Southern defender. After another missed extra point, the Bucs held a three-point lead, 12-9 with 11:31 remaining in the third.
The Bucs would force another fumble as ETSU defensive lineman Travis Williams (Bristol, Tenn.) recovered Cox's fumble on the ETSU 20 after Georgia Southern had driven 52 yards.
One of the biggest plays of the game came late in the third quarter as ETSU punter Aaron Bass (Clinton, Tenn.) made a great play to get off a 27-yard punt after he had bobbled the snap. After Bass got the kick off, he was hit and a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty gave ETSU the ball back.
After the drive continued, running back Corey Carter punched the ball in from one yard to widen the ETSU lead to 19-9 with 1:51 left in the third quarter.
Georgia Southern quarterback J.R. Revere, who had come in the third quarter, led the Eagles on a quick scoring drive, midway through the fourth quarter. Revere hit Carl Kearney with a 51-yard pass on the first play following an ETSU punt. After a nine-yard run by Adrian Peterson, Revere ran it in from four yards to make the score 19-16 with 4:34 remaining in the game.
After a short ETSU drive, Georgia Southern got the ball back at their own 4-yard line after a 56-yard Bass punt. On the first play of the drive, Revere's pass was intercepted by freshman safety Gerald Sensabaugh (Kingsport, Tenn.) at the Georgia Southern 21. On the next drive, ETSU would get a first down on three Carter rushes the kneel on the ball three times to run out the clock.
The Bucs were led by Wilhjelm, who completed six of 18 passes on the evening for 104 yards and two touchdowns. The senior quarterback also added 35 yards rushing on the night. For the Eagles, Cox completed two of nine passes for 13 yards.
The Bucs were led on the ground by Carter, who had 50 yards on 18 carries and the one touchdown. Adrian Peterson had another tremendous game for the Eagles, running for 159 yards on 31 carries.
ETSU's Moore led the team with 88 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. Kearney led Georgia Southern with his one reception for 51 yards.
There were many defensive heroes for the Bucs on the evening. Harkley had 12 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes broken up. Sophomore linebacker Mike Cornegay (Fayetteville, N.C.) had his fourth consecutive game with double-digit tackles after registering 11 tonight. Sensabaugh also had a great game, tallying eight tackles and an interception.
The Georgia Southern defense used their great speed to get into the ETSU backfield, registering 16 tackles for losses and three sacks on the night. For the Eagles, Mike Youngblood had eight tackles (two for losses) and a sack. Michael Ward had five tackles a sack and a forced fumble on the night.
Next Saturday, the Bucs will travel to Charleston Southern for a 1:30 p.m. matchup in Charleston, S.C. The Eagles return home Saturday for a huge matchup for SoCon supremacy against No. 3 Furman at 3:30 from Statesboro, Ga.