JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 15, 2003) - After a thrilling 14-7 overtime win over Tennessee-Martin last Thursday night, East Tennessee State football players earned all three weekly awards given out by the Southern Conference Monday afternoon. Senior tailback Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.) won conference Offensive Player of the Week, junior cornerback Allen Davis (Mullins, S.C.) was named Co-Defensive Player of the Week, and redshirt freshman quarterback Carl Meadows (Cumming, Ga.) took home Freshman of the Week honors for the second consecutive week.
Varner continued to excel in his role as the workhorse for the Buccaneer offense, turning in another dominant performance against UT-Martin. Varner rushed for 162 yards on 33 carries against the Skyhawks, wearing down the UTM defense with six runs of ten yards or more. Varner also caught a pass out of the backfield for seven yards, extending his streak to nine games in which he has caught at least one pass, dating back to last season.
Varner rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries in the first half and 66 yards on 13 carries in the second half and the short overtime period.
On the season, Varner leads the Southern Conference with 392 yards rushing and 130.7 yards per game. He has also caught seven passes out of the backfield for 37 yards.
Davis was a key contributor in the ETSU victory, making two plays late in the fourth quarter that literally saved the game for the Buccaneers.
Following a big punt return, the Skyhawks were driving into Buccaneer territory in a 7-7 game, looking for the possible game-winning points. With just over four minutes remaining in regulation, Davis made a leaping interception at the ETSU 17-yard line thwarting a dangerous Skyhawk drive. But Davis still had one more spectacular play in him, and it was one of the most pivotal plays that a Buc player has made in recent memory.
After an interception, 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 where ETSU would score the winning touchdown on their first possession.
Against UT-Martin, Davis had three tackles, an interception, a blocked kick and a pass breakup. Davis also had a big game returning punts, taking back six kicks for 70 yards, including a long of 23.
On the season, Davis has 8.5 tackles, an interception, a blocked kick and four pass breakups. He leads the Southern Conference in pass breakups, passes defended and punt return average (10.9 avg.).
Davis tied for the Defensive Player of the Week award with Elon linebacker Mike Warren, who scored the game-winning touchdown against Hofstra on an interception return.
Meadows turned in his third-consecutive strong performance at the helm of the Buccaneer offense, going 15-for-31 with 137 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception against UT-Martin. However, it was his composure in such a tight game on the road in just his third collegiate start that was most impressive.
Meadows came though in two clutch situations against the Skyhawks that provided the points for the Buccaneer victory. With the Bucs down 7-0 to begin the second half, Meadows engineered a seven-play, 73-yard drive to begin the third quarter that culminated with a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Andrew Nuckolls (Tunnel Hill, Ga.) to tie the game. Then, with the score still tied in overtime, Meadows again connected with his favorite receiver, hitting Nuckolls with a 22-yard pass down the left sideline that won the game for the Bucs.
Meadows has been a pleasant surprise for the Bucs this season, leading the Southern Conference with 557 yards passing (185.7 ypg) and seven passing touchdowns. He is also second in total offense (176.0 ypg) and fourth in passing efficiency (130.4). Meadows has led ETSU to a 2-1 record through three games, and almost led the Bucs to a win over Division I-A opponent Eastern Michigan, narrowly falling 28-21 in his first collegiate start on Aug. 28.
The Bucs return to action on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. as they travel to Elon for their first Southern Conference game of the season.