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Defense, No. 2 offense impress in Blue-Gold Spring Game
Saturday, April 19, 2003JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 19, 2003) - In a game highlighted by defensive dominance and a No. 2 offensive squad that made things interesting at the end, the Blue team defeated the Gold squad 8-6 as the East Tennessee State University football team wrapped up spring practice with its annual Blue-Gold Game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"I was very pleased with our No. 2 offense - particularly our offensive line," said ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton. "That's been an area of concern for us from the standpoint of depth on the offensive line, but they showed me something today out there blocking our first-team defense.
"Everything else went pretty much like we expected with our defense controlling the game a lot, but we did some things on the offensive side of the ball that I think we can build on before next year."
While the Blue squad's defensive unit held the Gold to just two first downs in the first half, redshirt freshman quarterback Carl Meadows (Cummings, Ga.) completed his first three passes of the game and helped the Blue squad march 63 yards on 12 plays on their first possession to take the early lead at 3-0 on a 28-yard field goal by junior Jon Godfrey (Johnson City).
Meadows, who Hamilton said will be the team's No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring practice, finished the day completing 8-of-15 passes for 66 yards and no interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound graduate of North Forsyth High School said he thinks the offense is on the right track.
"Going in as a redshirt freshman and learning a new offense can be tough, but I think we're starting to click now," Meadows said. "Spring practice is just one phase of working towards the regular season, but I think right now we're 10 times better on offense - especially the offensive line - than we were last year. We're coming together."
The Blue squad increased their lead in the second quarter after a 52-yard punt by senior Aaron Bass (Clinton) pinned the Gold at their own 10-yard line. Three plays later, senior defensive tackle Travis Williams (Bristol) sacked walk-on freshman quarterback Justin Price (LaFollette, Tenn.) for a safety to make it 5-0 with 13:24 left in the half.
That play highlighted the defensive effort for both the Blue and Gold squads. However, redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Cullen (Roswell, Ga.), junior defensive back Michael Mabe (Richlands, Va.), sophomore defensive back Primus Glover (Springfield, Ga.), and sophomore defensive end Tony Haynes (Franklin) all had solid games. Cullen finished with a team-high nine tackles for the Blue, while Mabe and Glover had seven tackles apiece and Haynes added three sacks to lead the way for the Gold.
"I thought the defensive unit on both sides did a great job today," Williams said. "We've really improved as a unit. We worked really hard to keep them (the Gold squad) out of the end zone, but give credit where it's due, they put together a great drive there."
Indeed, after the Blue increased its lead to 8-0 in the third quarter on a Godfrey field goal that measured 39 yards, the Gold was bolstered by some surprising play from Price. Going 59-yards in 14 plays, Price completed 6-of-7 passes for 31 yards, including a 6-yard scoring toss to senior tight end Randy Grubb (Pulaski, Va.). The two-point conversion pass intended for Grubb fell incomplete and the Gold trailed 8-6 with a quarter of play remaining.
For the game, Price finished 13-of-20 for 76 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Grubb caught five passes for 28 yards. Their efforts caught Hamilton's attention.
"I thought Randy Grubb and the two Price kids really played well," said Hamilton, referring to Justin Price's brother, Matt, who also had four catches for 35 yards in the game. "I think those guys showed us some things."
In the fourth quarter, the Gold had one last shot to take the lead after redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Butler (Kingsport) had his pass intercepted by Glover. However, with just over two minutes remaining on the game clock, the Blue defensive unit held the Gold to four-and-out to preserve the win.
For the Blue, senior tailback Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.) was the leading rusher with 47 yards on 10 carries, while sophomore tight end Justin Cruze (Knoxville) was the team's top receiver with 34 yards on two catches. Also for the Blue, junior Scott Brumett (Pioneer) played both ways, catching a pass for 14 yards from the tight end position and picking up three tackles from his normal linebacking slot.
For the Gold, sophomore Andre Brooks (Greenville, S.C.) picked up a squad-best 21 yards on five carries, while Matt Price led all receivers with his four catches for 35 yards. Along with Justin Price at quarterback, Butler finished the game 5-of-10 for 47 yards and an interception.
ETSU will return to action in early August for preseason workouts, and the Bucs will open their 2003 regular season on Thursday, Aug. 28, when they travel to face Eastern Michigan. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Blue - 8-6
Passing - Gold: J.Price 13-20-0 76, Butler 5-10-1 47; Blue: Meadows 8-15-0 66.
Receiving - Gold: M.Price 4-35, Grubb 5-28, Salmons 2-16, Scurry 1-6, Smiley 1-(-3), Gosman 1-(-2); Blue: Cruze 2-34, Nuckolls 3-29, Johnson 2-16, Brumett 1-14, Spearman 2-12, Matthews 1-8, Varner 1-(-1).