JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 12, 2016) – Coming off its open week, the ETSU football team returned to game week on Monday.
ETSU – who opened the season with a 20-17 double-overtime win at Kennesaw State on Sept. 3 – is gearing up for the “Food City Bucs at Bristol” game this Saturday afternoon when the Buccaneers host Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. For tickets, please call 423-BRISTOL or click here to purchase them online.
In preparation for Saturday’s game, ETSU held its weekly football press luncheon on Monday afternoon inside the MSHA Athletic Center. Head coach Carl Torbush, along with defensive back Ryan Powers (Jupiter, Fla.) and wide receiver Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) met the media to discuss this weekend’s Southern Conference opener.
Below are comments from Coach Torbush, Powers and Ponchillia.
HEAD COACH CARL TORBUSH
We are truly excited about this weekend’s Food City Bucs at Bristol game. This is an exciting event for our players, coaches, and community, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I want to say a big Thank You to Bristol Motor Speedway for allowing us to play there and Food City for sponsoring our game.
Saturday will be our first SoCon game since 2003 and it’ll be a big challenge for us. Western Carolina has an outstanding football team. I have known head coach Mark Speir a long time. He has done a great job building the program where it needs to be. They are competitive every week. Western got beat by an East Carolina team that beat North Carolina State last week and beat Gardner-Webb this past weekend.
Western Carolina is a very athletic football team. They have great speed on both sides of the ball and return the conference’s preseason offensive player of the year in Detrez Newsome. Newsome was a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago and he had over 100 yards this past week against Gardner-Webb.
We are excited for the challenge that we are about the face on Saturday. It’s our first game back in the SoCon – just like Kennesaw State – it will be a good measuring stick to see where we stand in the conference. I want to challenge the fans of East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia to come out and support both programs. It’s an exciting event and we need a large crowd to show up at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.
On Western Carolina Quarterback Tyrie Adams
He is a redshirt freshman and can beat you with his arm and legs. What scares me the most is he’s an excellent high jumper in track and field. He’s extremely athletic and very poised.
He has a lot of weapons that he can get the ball to, as their wide receivers are tall, lean players and they run extremely well. He also gets great protection from their offensive line.
On Western Carolina’s Defense
Western Carolina has several all-conference linebackers and outstanding man cover guys. They shutout Gardner-Webb in the second half, so they will be tough to score on. They run extremely well on defense.
On playing at Bristol Motor Speedway
Our team has shown a lot of maturity after the win at Kennesaw State. We came back and had a solid week of practice in our open week. Our maturity had a lot to do with that. We expect another solid week as we prepare for Western Carolina. We can’t get caught up in all the glitz and glamour this week. Obviously, this is a different type of venue, but we have to treat it like another game. We will go up there (BMS) and practice on Thursday so our players can get used to that setting. In the end, we are playing football and we have to prepare like it’s any other game week.
On the win at Kennesaw State
The win was great to see how far we have come and the improvement made from last season to this season. It was a close game and we overcame adversity late, but our guys stepped up and got the job done.
We had way too many penalties and we have to clean that up. Normally, I wouldn’t say having the open week this early is a good thing, but I believe this was a great time for us to be off. Our guys were able to come back, enjoy the win and be congratulated for it. We enjoyed the win, but we got back to work the following Tuesday to start improving as a football team. We will be back at again this afternoon preparing for Western Carolina.
On what the win at Kennesaw does for the team’s confidence
Beating Kennesaw State has shown our guys that they can win on this level. It also shows how much progress we have made from last year to now. We are a lot bigger, faster, stronger and more mature from a year ago. The win also shows how tough we are both physically and mentally. It was exciting to see how our young guys responded and how happy they were when we won that game. It was a very special feeling. The fan support has also been great. I think because of that win, it should give us confidence heading into this weekend.
Does the team thrive as being underdogs?
I hope so. If it were a perfect world, we would be underdogs in all 11 games. I think being the underdog helps you be a little more relaxed. Each week we expect our guys to play to the best of their ability and win football games.
Did the strong finish last year carry over into this season?
I believe it did. Our guys understood what both the failures and successes meant. Towards the end of last season the maturity factor took over and our guys started to understand what it took to win a football game. Our coaching staff also played a large role in that, because they did a great job putting the players in a situation to win and our guys responded.
On being back in the Southern Conference
It’s really important that we are back in the Southern Conference. We can get in a car or bus and get to any school within a couple of hours. It brings out the crosstown rivalries and that’s big for the fans. It’s one of the top FCS conferences, but the SoCon has great teams in every sport. It’s such a competitive conference from top to bottom and we are thankful they took us back. Everyone should be excited for the conference opener and to be part of history playing at Bristol Motor Speedway.
SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK RYAN POWERS
On the biggest difference from facing Kennesaw State to Western Carolina
It’s a complete 180. Facing Kennesaw State that is run heavy with a three-back system to a team like Western Carolina – who will spread you out and try to throw the ball down field – has its differences but we need to be ready play our positions. Our biggest priority this weekend is having great coverage and making tackles in open space.
On playing at Bristol Motor Speedway
It’s going to be an awesome experience. I was able to work the game (Battle at Bristol) this past weekend and there was nothing else like it. We can’t get caught up in the moment. We have to win a football game and that’s the bottom line.
The importance of offense being able to sustain drives
It’s really important to have our offense get first downs and stay on the field. In a physical game you want the defense on the field as little as possible to keep fresh. It’s big to have an offense to move the chains and eat the time of possession.
On the goal line stand on Kennesaw’s opening drive
That goal line stand set the tone and gave us momentum. It gave us confidence because it showed we could stop them.
JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER DALTON PONCHILLIA
On Playing at Bristol Motor Speedway
It’s going to be different, but our team will handle it just fine. We have played in a lot of different venues – nothing to this extreme – but we will be okay. It will help that we are practicing there on Thursday so we can get used to the size of Bristol Motor Speedway. We have to be focused and ready to play come Saturday.
On the win at Kennesaw State
The win showed a lot from how far our team has grown since a year ago. It was an exciting game and helped us gain some confidence as we move forward. It was nice to open the season with a win, but this weekend’s game means a lot more since it’s a conference game.
Differences from last year to this year
Things are lot different this year than last year. Last year, there were more question marks and uncertainties. Now that we have played games and have experienced playing on the FCS level we know what it takes to be a successful team. We have a lot more confidence and a better understanding of running our system.
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