Last night’s football game against East Tennessee State University turned out to be a heartbreaker with the Skyhawks being defeated 14-7 in overtime by the Buccaneers.
Being played on the second anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the third game in the Skyhawk’s season was dubbed the “Tribute to America” game. Festivities included ribbons at the door, helicopters overhead and five members of the ROTC doing a field show with their rifles.
Despite the loss, it was the UTM defense’s night to shine. The Skyhawks had five sacks for a total loss of 34 yards.
Freshman David Gilmore followed up the second sack of the game with a blocked punt which he returned on the 50 yard line. On the next snap, freshman quarterback Brett Hall completed a pass to wide receiver Sanders Trent, who ran it in 50 yards for the touchdown with 10:37 left in the first half. The field goal was good, giving UTM the 7-0 lead, but these would be the only points that the Skyhawks would be able to put on the board.
In the third quarter, the ETSU Buccaneers charged down field from their 27 yard line with three complete passes and two rushing plays for a total gain of 46 yards. The next play resulted in quarterback Carl Meadows completing a 27 yard pass to Andrew Nuckolls for the touchdown. Jonathon Godfrey tacked on the extra point to tie the score at 7-7 with 12:20 left in the quarter.
For the remainder of the third quarter, possession flip-flopped between the two teams. UTM’s Hall was sacked once, resulting in the fourth down on which Gilmore forced ETSU’s Allen Davis to fumble on the return. The ball was recovered by UTM kicker Brent Harris. The drive ended after Hall was sacked by ETSU’s Travis Williams and the 43 yard punt by Harris.
After three incomplete passes and a punt by East Tennessee, UTM regained the ball at the 22 yard line and then moved to the 37 on a personal foul against ETSU. Two plays later, after a gain of only two yards, UTM was penalized 15 yards for another personal foul.
The third quarter ended with each team having one more possession, ETSU’s Meadows being sacked by Markeseo Jackson, a UTM holding penalty, and Andrew Staten rushing for two plays with a total gain of one yard.
Between the third and fourth quarters, Ryan Bethel, the second of the two qualifiers in the First State Bank’s Punt, Pass, and Kick contest took the field. He kicked about a 45 yard punt and then impressed the crowd by throwing a monsterous pass that landed on the one yardline and bounced all the way out of the endzone. His field goal attempt from the one was good to win him $5,000.
Keeping the energy from Ryan’s success going, UTM started the fourth quarter by stringing together a series of 14 plays that included four first downs and a 16 yard pass interference penalty; the Skyhawks gained 47 yards to make it to the visiting 33 yard line. They were unable to get the fifth first down after attempting to rush on a fourth and one with 10 minutes left in regulation.
After an unsuccessful drive by ETSU during which the Buc’s had three first downs in a row, but only gained 18 yards, the Skyhawks regained possession with 7:48 on the clock. They, too, were unable to capitalize on having the ball, only gaining five yards on three plays. ETSU had another short possession and UTM got the ball on the 49 yard line after a 47 yard punt by Buccaneer Aaron Bass and a 49 yard return by Jason Coleman.
On the next play, UTM QB Harris’s pass was intercepted by Allen Davis on the 17 yard line. Possession changed once again after the Buc’s gained two yards on three plays. The punt by Aaron Bass was once again caught by Skyhawk Jason Coleman who was forced to fumble by Austin Smiley who recovered the ball for no gain.
The next series of plays consisted of the Buccaneers rushing for four yards, passing for four more, and then having a pass intercepted by UTM defensive back Chad McMahan. The Skyhawks drove the ball to the one yardline where Andrew Staten was inches shy of the winning touchdown. Harris’s eight yard field goal attempt with three seconds left was blocked by Buc Allen Davis, sending the game into overtime.
The Skyhawks made it all the way to the three yardline but were defeated in overtime after they were unable to match the touchdown by ETSU’s Andrew Nuckolls and the extra point by Godfrey.
“Our kids never, never quit in this game,” said Coach Matt Griffin. “This is a testament to the character they have. I cannot say enough about our effort. Despite a tough loss, we should be proud of our kids.”
Overall, the Skyhawk defense held the Buccaneers to 133 rushing yards and 137 passing yards. John Castillo, a junior college transfer from San Diego, led the defense with 10 tackles, two of which were for losses, a forced fumble, two sacks fro 15 yards and a pass break-up.
In his second outing as a Skyhawk, quarterback Hall completed 12 of 25 for 165 yards and had two interceptions. UTM also rushed 44 times for a total of 133 yards.
The Skyhawks are now 1-2 on the season. Their next game will be on Sept. 20, when they will face the Western Illinois Leathernecks, Division I-AA’s number one team. Kick off is set for 6:05 p.m.