BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
Down 34-0 last week in the first half of the season opener at Urbana, Tusculum looked like a team on the verge of absorbing one of the worst defeats in Coach Frankie DeBusk's tenure as the Pioneers mentor.
But they picked themselves up off the dirt and made a game of it, eventually falling 53-33 but not before trimming the once huge Urbana lead down to a touchdown.
Urbana was a quality opponent, and the Pioneers will face another one this Saturday when they travel to West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga. for a 3:30 kickoff, a game that will be televised locally by CSS.
"I don't know ... we didn't act like we were ready to play early," DeBusk said of the first half in Ohio last Saturday after being questioned if he could pinpoint any one thing that might have been the main culprit for the slow start.
"Traveling ... we had several guys that had never traveled for a game like this," he said. "The atmosphere .. maybe that had something to do with it. I don't really know that answer because I've never been down 34-0 before."
The Pioneers scored late in the first half to close to 34-6, and then proceeded to complete a 33-6 run that had them right back in the game, trailing 40-33 at one point.
"Obviously we made some adjustments," the coach said. "The kids showed they had some care about them. They could have laid down and gotten beat really, really bad."
West Georgia, coached by former University of Tennessee quarterback Daryl Dickey, will present another challenge to the Pioneers this week. Dickey has locked horns with DeBusk and the Pioneers in the past when he was coach at then-SAC member Presbyterian.
"They are very physical," DeBusk said. "Their offensive line is a group of strong young men. They don't make a lot of mistakes. We've definitely got to play a lot better in the first half than we did last week, or it will be a long Saturday."
The two teams met at Pioneer Field last year with Tusculum eking out a 20-10 victory.
The Wolves easily won their opener last Saturday, a 55-3 rout of Point, a team in only its second year of football competition.
Bo Cordell made a much-anticipated return at quarterback last week for the Pioneers and he didn't disappoint after sitting out most of last year with an injury. He completed 38 of 58 passes for 389 yds. and four touchdowns. Several passes were dropped in the first half.
"I think inexperience showed early in our receiving corps," DeBusk said. "I think we had five dropped balls in the game early. But they settled down and made some big plays in the second half."
Brian Marshall left the game injured last week but DeBusk said he should be ready to play this week. Offensive lineman Darius Cunningham is listed as doubtful with a banged-up knee.
*The Tusculum vs. West Georgia game can be viewed locally on CSS, channels 37 and 402 on Comcast Cable.