Boiling Springs, N.C. (Sept. 14, 2002) - East Tennessee State's offensive troubles continued here tonight, as the Buccaneers came up short on a comeback try in a 13-10 loss at Gardner-Webb. In a game that was halted for 76 minutes near the end of the third quarter by a driving rainstorm and lightning, ETSU could only manage 229 yards of offense and missed two field goals while having a touchdown called back on a penalty.
It was an ominous beginning for East Tennessee State when the Bucs' starter at quarterback, Dashannon Gamble, threw an interception on the third play of the game, giving Gardner-Webb the ball on the ETSU 25-yard line. The Bulldogs did not squander the opportunity, turning it into a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard pass from Jeremy Martin to William Andrews at the 11:35 mark.
After gaining just five yards on its next possession, Gardner-Webb took the ball at the their own 24-yard line and proceeded to drive 73 yards in 14 plays in a drive that ended in a 20-yard field goal by Andrew Harmon. Martin was responsible for most of the drive, connecting on all six of his pass attempts of the possession for 66 yards. He would go on to hit on 21-of-34 attempts in the game for 227 yards and one score to lead the Bulldog offense.
The Buccaneer offense, on the other hand, managed only 110 yards of offense in the first half. ETSU did manage to put together a 13-play, 59-yard drive at the start of the second quarter, answering Gardner-Webb's field goal with one of its own, a 25 yarder by Scott Salmons that pulled the Bucs to within a touchdown at 13-3 with 9:43 left before the half.
Both teams missed field goal attempts later in the quarter in the wet conditions, with ETSU's Gerald Sensabaugh blocking Gardner-Webb's attempt and Allen Davis scooping up the loose ball and returning it to the ETSU 45. The Bucs ensuing drive stalled at the G-W 29, and Salmons missed on a 46-yard attempt. With just 1:29 on the clock, Gardner-Webb engineered a drive that included a key 13-yard pass from Martin to Andrews to the ETSU 13 with just five second left on the clock. Harmon then converted on his second three-pointer of the night and the Bulldogs had a 13-3 lead at the half.
Late in the third quarter the rains started as ETSU was driving down the field. Gaven Varner scampered into the end zone on a nifty 13-yard run, only to have the play called back on a holding call. With the rain coming down in torrents, the snap on Salmons field goal attempt rolled to holder Mike Rader, who was immediately swarmed under by the Bulldogs.
The game was then halted and when play resumed, neither team could get anything going until Cecil Moore returned a punt 26 yards to set up ETSU's lone touchdown of the evening. Getting the ball at the GW 34, Gamble completed a 29-yard pass play to Varner on a third and 10, with Varner finishing off the drive on the next play on a five-yard run for his first touchdown as a Buccaneer.
That would prove to be all that the Bucs could muster, however, as ETSU could not get close to the end zone on its final two possessions. Varner led ETSU in rushing with 58 yards on 11 carries, while Jatavis Sanders, who sat out the fourth quarter with an arm bruise, completed 10 of his 12 pass attempts for 114 yards.