JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 9, 2002) - Junior running back J.R. McNair rushed for a career-high 143 yards and the 15th-ranked Wofford Terriers compiled a season-high 488 yards on the ground in a 39-10 victory over Southern Conference rival East Tennessee State Saturday night at Memorial Center.
With the win, Wofford head coach Mike Ayers picked up his 100th career victory and the Terriers (8-2 overall, 6-1 SoCon) set school records for wins in their eight years at the Division I-AA level and their six seasons in the SoCon.
"I give a lot of credit to Wofford," said ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton, whose team dropped to 4-7 overall, 2-5 in conference play. "They are a great football team and they executed well tonight. They have developed into a strong football team this season and I commend them for coming in here and winning a tough football game."
While the Buccaneers are now assured of only their second losing season in the last seven years, the Terriers could wrap up their first Southern Conference championship with a home victory over Furman next week in Spartanburg, S.C.
"The credit goes to our kids," said Wofford head coach Mike Ayers, whose team entered the game ranked second in the nation with an average of 341.9 yards rushing per game. "They came out focused and knew what was at stake. We treated it like a SoCon semifinal game. We now have our chance to win a championship, which has been our goal. But we also know we have to play better next week than we did tonight."
Wofford opened the scoring in the first quarter thanks to a 30-yard scoring run by McNair with 6:08 left in the first period. On that drive, McNair provided the most critical run with a 28-yard jaunt that took the ball to the Buccaneers' 41-yard line.
With the Terriers' rolling up big offensive numbers on the ground, quarterback Jeff Zolman did not need to go to the air often, completing both of the two passes he attempted in the game.
But one of those two passes proved costly for the Buccaneers, as Zolman connected with tight end Tommy Chandler on a 20-yard scoring pass with 13 minutes left in the first half. Todd Rhoden's extra-point kick failed, and Wofford led 13-0.
The Bucs' defensive unit was able to get ETSU back into the game with 10:20 left in the first half when strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh (Kingsport, Tenn.) scooped up a Zolman fumble and raced 20 yards for the touchdown. The score by the ETSU defense was its second in as many games.
Wofford did not allow the ETSU hopes to last long, as Zolman made amends for his earlier error and scored on a 31-yard run just over two minutes after his fumble. Then, after holding the Bucs' offense on three-straight downs, the Terriers took over at the ETSU 41-yard line and needed just five plays to score on a 15-yard Jesse McCoy run at the 3:45 mark of the first half.
Trailing 26-7 in the second half, the Bucs pulled to within 26-10 thanks to a Wofford fumble and a season-long 42-yard field goal by ETSU's Braye Walters (Columbia, S.C.). However, the Terriers put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter thanks to a 9-yard scoring run by Zolman and a 32-yard touchdown run by Gabriel Jackson.
The Buccaneers' offense - which has not scored a touchdown in 13-straight quarters - was led by senior quarterback Jatavis Sanders' (Stone Mountain, Ga.) 14-of-21 passing for 76 yards. Punter Aaron Bass (Clinton, Tenn.) put in a strong performance, punting nine times for an average of 48.6 yards. On defense, linebacker Scott Brumett (Pioneer, Tenn.) put together an impressive performance with 18 tackles, eight of which were solo tackles.
ETSU will wrap up its season next week at SoCon rival Chattanooga. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at Finley Stadium.