JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 12, 2016) – At first, it appeared that offense would determine the winner of Saturday’s matchup between ETSU’s football team and Cumberland University. In the end, it was the Buccaneers’ defense that made all the difference.
After watching both teams combine to score 39 points and rack up 484 yards in total offense in the first half, the ETSU defense dug in and did not allow a point in the second half, stifling the Phoenix offensive unit time after time and preserving a 23-16 Homecoming win in front of 6,735 fans at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
With the non-conference victory, the Bucs improved to 4-6 on the year and have doubled their win total from the program’s inaugural 2015-16 season. Meanwhile, Cumberland ended its season at 5-6.
While the Bucs ultimately got the win, Cumberland took the early lead and twice held the advantage at 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half. However, ETSU’s offense answered each time, led by three scores from sophomore tailback Jajuan Stinson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and strong quarterback play from sophomore Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.). Ultimately, the Bucs’ 23-16 halftime lead would hold up for the entirety of the game.
In the second half, the Bucs twice held the Cumberland offense on fourth down and also forced a missed 28-field goal early in the fourth quarter. The biggest stop of the game came after the Phoenix had first-and-goal at the ETSU 4-yard line midway through the third quarter. The Bucs stopped two running plays and then Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas) and Ryan Powers (Jupiter, Fla.) successfully defended two pass attempts into the end zone to avoid the scoring threat. Overall, the Buccaneer defense limited Cumberland to 133 total yards of offense in the second half (11 rushing yards/122 passing yards), while also holding the Phoenix to 1-of-7 on third and 1-of-3 on fourth down.
For the game, Stinson finished with 143 all-purpose yards, including 29 yards receiving and a game-high 114 on the ground. Meanwhile, Herink was 11-of-20 through the air for 163 yards and rushed seven times for 42 yards.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- Cumberland 7, ETSU 0: Despite being pinned at its own 14-yard line, Cumberland made a statement on its opening drive, led by redshirt senior quarterback Justin Snyder. The former Science Hill High School standout powered the Phoenix drive, rushing four times for 35 yards and going 5-of-5 through the air for 45 yards. He finished off the scoring effort with a 13-yard run to make it 7-0 with 9:22 left in the first quarter. The opening possession of the game covered 94 yards in 11 plays and took 5:38 off the clock.
- ETSU 7, Cumberland 7: The Bucs wasted little time responding to the Cumberland score, opening their first drive of the game with a reverse that resulted in a 24-yard run by Artevius Smith (Birmingham, Ala.). Herink followed with a 28-yard run of his own, and three plays later Stinson capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring run. The nine-play, 71-yard drive took 3:21 off the clock, and with 5:55 left in the first quarter the game was tied 7-7.
- Cumberland 14, ETSU 7: The Phoenix continued to win the time of possession battle, putting together another long, time-consuming drive on their second possession. Going 84 yards in 17 plays, Cumberland took 8:03 off the clock and scored on another 1-yard run by Snyder to make it 14-7. With 12:48 left in the first half, the Bucs had only one offensive possession in the game.
- ETSU 14, Cumberland 14: ETSU once again quickly answered the Cumberland score. Taking just five plays to cover 70 yards, the Bucs found the end zone again on a 26-yard scamper by Stinson. The touchdown was set up by a 24-yard pass play from Herink to wide receiver Chad Pritchard (Elizabethton, Tenn.). With 10:30 left in the half, ETSU had tied the score at 14-14.
- ETSU 20, Cumberland 14: After forcing Cumberland into the first punt of the game, Herink went to work again, hitting junior wide receiver Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) on a 39-yard pass gain, followed three plays later by a 29-yard touchdown strike to Stinson for his third touchdown of the game. The four-play drive covered 80 yards in just 1:36. However, the extra point was blocked.
- ETSU 20, Cumberland 16: On the Bucs’ extra point attempt, Cumberland’s Alex Campagne flashed into the backfield to block the kick. Teammate David Emanuel scooped up the ball and raced 86 yards for the two-point score. With 6:34 left before halftime, ETSU led 20-16.
- ETSU 23, Cumberland 16: Forcing a Cumberland punt with 24 seconds left in the half, the Bucs took over on their 42-yard line and did not just go to the halftime locker room. Instead, Herink dropped back and found sophomore wide receiver Drake Powell (Clinton, Tenn.) behind the Phoenix defense for a 49-yard pass play to the Cumberland nine-yard line. ETSU placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tenn.) came on to kick the 26-yard field goal and the Bucs led 23-16 at the break.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Jajuan Stinson posted his fifth 100-plus yard rushing game of his career and he has accomplished the feat twice in his last four contests.
- Stinson became the first Buccaneer with a 3-touchdown game since Gaven Varner rushed for three touchdowns against VMI back on Sept. 21, 2003.
- After allowing 209 yards of total offense (105 rushing/104 passing) in the first half, the Buccaneer defense held Cumberland to 133 yards in the second half – including just 11 rushing yards.
- ETSU out-gained Cumberland, 401 to 342 in the contest, while the Bucs rushed for 238 yards on the afternoon, marking the third time this year the Blue and Gold eclipsed the 200-yard plateau as a team … The Bucs registered 204 yards in the second quarter as Austin Herink was 5-of-6 passing with 139 yards and Stinson and Falon Lee (Macclenny, Fla.) combined for 53 of ETSU’s 65 rushing yards in the frame.
- Defensively, sophomore linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) and Ryan Powers both totaled double-digit tackles … Powers finished with a game-high 11 and Weigel added 10 … Weigel has now finished with double-digit tackles in three straight games and 16 times in his 21 collegiate games … Powers has also totaled double-digit tackles in his last three games and has seven career games with 10 or more tackles.
- Sophomore defensive lineman Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Ga.) registered his first sack of the season and totaled five tackles, while Paul Hunter added eight tackles … Junior defensive back Daren Ardis (Bradenton, Fla.) and sophomore linebacker River Boruff (Sparta, Tenn.) each finished with seven tackles.
- ETSU’s two big fourth down stops came in the third quarter … Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.) caused the first turnover on downs when he stopped Kendall Johnson for a loss of one on a 4th-and-2 pass play at the ETSU 44, while Paul Hunter and Ryan Powers had pass break ups on third and fourth down on Cumberland’s next drive inside the five yard line.
- JJ Jerman had made 40 straight PATs to start his collegiate career until having his third attempt blocked in the second quarter on Saturday.
- ETSU opponents were 11 of 16 on fourth down this season prior to Saturday’s game. Cumberland went 2-for-4 on fourth down to make that season number now 13 for 20. However, the two stops for the Bucs proved to be important in the win.
- Cumberland won the time of possession, 33:47 to 26:13, but the Phoenix were held to 4 of 14 on third down.
- Justin Snyder went 22-of-36 with 226 yard passing and also picked up 53 yards on the ground with two touchdowns … Defensively, red-shirt junior linebacker Malik Burriss led Cumberland with 10 tackles, while red-shirt senior defensive lineman Justus Dauscha totaled his team-leading 12th sack of the season.
- The Bucs now lead the all-time series with Cumberland 7-1. Prior to Saturday’s matchup, the last meeting between the two programs came in 1947, a 25-0 Bucs’ win.
The Bucs will wrap up their 2016 season at home next week when they host No. 21 Samford at Kermit Tipton Stadium. Kickoff Saturday is set for 3:30 p.m.