Thursday, August 28, 2003Ypsilanti, Mich. (August 28, 2003) -- East Tennessee State's football team opened its 2003 campaign with a hard fought battle at Eastern Michigan, but the Buccaneers came up just a bit short in dropping a 28-21 decision to the Eagles at Rynearson Stadium Thursday night. It was the season opener for both teams, and ETSU's first meeting with the Division I-A opponent. "I am very proud of our football team," said ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton."It has been a long haul, but we felt coming up here, we could win this football game." EMU's starting quarterback Jeff Crooks hit the turf in pain with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter, and would not return for the remainder of the game. On the next play from scrimmage, backup quarterback Chinedu Okoro hit Sherrell on a screen play that went 68 yards for the team's first scoring strike. At 10:26 mark in the second quarter, Sherrell scored again, this time on a 38-yard run up the right sideline to put the Eagles ahead 14-0, their largest lead of the game. The run capped off a four play, 47-yard drive. ETSU would struck back a minute and a half later, when junior Scott Brumett (Pioneer, Tenn.) intercepted an Okoro pass. The standout linebacker returned it 70 yards for the touchdown to pull within 14-7. With less than a minute remaining in the second quarter, the Bucs scored on a third-and-twenty situation from the EMU 34-yard line on a Carl Meadows (Cummings, Ga.) pass to sophomore wideout Brian Matthews (Georgetown, S.C.) in the back right corner of the endzone to tie the score at 14-14 at the half. The Buccaneers took their first and only lead of the contest with 7:00 left in the third quarter. They claimed a 21-14 advantage on a one-yard touchdown scamper by senior running back Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.). Varner tied an ETSU record by carrying the ball 37 times for a career-high 165 yards on the ground. Eastern Michigan's Okoro answered on a one-run dash of his own with 4:02 left in the third to tie the score at 21 all, and EMU sealed the win with a 44-yard pass from Okoro to wide receiver Eric Deslauriers with 7:49 left in the fourth quarter. "There were spots in the game where we could have won this thing," said Hamilton. "I don't like getting beat, and we are going to turn things around." Meadows, in his first game behind center following a redshirt freshman season, completed 14-of-23 pass attempts for 120 yards. Meadows was picked off once, but also garnered his first passing touchdown as a Buc. ETSU will come back to Johnson City for its first home contest of the season. The Buccaneers will look for their first win of the season when they host Concord College on Thursday, Sept. 4. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Center, while the pregame show will begin at 6 p.m. from the Sophisticated Otter in downtown Johnson City. It can also be heard on any one of our radio affiliates or by clicking here.
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