JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 16, 2017) – The growth of the ETSU football program took another significant step forward Saturday afternoon at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.
Facing The Citadel Bulldogs – the two-time defending Southern Conference champions and the 13th-ranked team in the nation – the Buccaneers built a 10-point lead early in the second half and also did not fold when the Bulldogs clipped off 21 unanswered points to build a 28-17 advantage midway through the fourth quarter. Despite entering the game as a 25-point underdog, the Bucs ultimately dropped the Southern Conference opener, 31-25, but had a final offensive possession with a chance to win late in the game.
Head coach Carl Torbush, while disappointed in the result, certainly recognized the progress of his team, especially after having lost to this same Citadel team 45-10 a year ago.
“I thought our young men played hard the entire ball game,” Torbush said. “Obviously, they (The Citadel) caught on a little bit to what we were doing, but I thought defensively we had some really nice plays and did a good job. I am a little bit disappointed we didn't move the ball better on the ground offensively, but I thought we threw the ball well at times. We have some good football players and a good football team. Like I told our guys after the game, ‘being close is not good enough’... when you play the 13th ranked team in the country and play them like we did, we had a chance at the end of the ball game. I thought we used the time and timeouts wisely, but it just didn't work out. If we stay in this type of ball game with this type of opponent we'll win our share of the ball games.”
With the loss, the Bucs dropped to 1-2 overall, 0-1 in SoCon play, while The Citadel improved to 3-0, 1-0, in front of a crowd of 7,544.
The Bucs, who had their share of breaks in the game thanks to a recovered fumble, a picked off pass, and a blocked field goal attempt, finished with 208 yards in total offense. The majority of those yards came through the air, as junior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland) went 18-of-32 for 182 yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes. For The Citadel, the Bulldogs gained 435 yards on the day, with 331 coming on the ground in their patented triple-option offense.
After scoring just seven points in the first half, the Bulldogs scored on their final four possessions of the game with three straight touchdowns and a field goal.
Defensively, junior linebackers Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) and River Boruff (Sparta) stood out once again for the Bucs. Weigel finished with 19 tackles, the second highest single-game total in his career, while Boruff had 14 stops to eclipse double digit tackles for the second straight game.
HOW THEY SCORED
- ETSU 7, The Citadel 0 – The game began perfectly for the Bucs, as after a three-and-out on offense, The Citadel’s fourth down snap hit an up back before reaching the punter and the fumble was recovered by ETSU’s Jack Shoulders (Nashville) at The Citadel 22-yard line. On the Bucs first offensive play of the game, Herink found senior wide receiver Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.) for a 22-yard scoring strike and ETSU gained the early advantage with 12:38 left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 7, The Citadel 7 – Wasting little time on its next offensive possession, the Bulldogs evened the score by utilizing its triple option offense and going 75 yards on 11 plays to score on a 10-yard run up the middle by fullback Brandon Rainey. With 7:10 left in the first quarter, the game was tied.
- ETSU 14, The Citadel 7 – After blocking a Bulldog field goal and later flipping field position with a punt, the Bucs’ defense held The Citadel offense to three plays deep in their own territory. After a punt by the Bulldogs, ETSU took over at The Citadel 49-yard line with 2:24 left in the half. On an improvised pass play, Herink found Lowe once more for a gain of 27 yards, and two plays later Herink hit junior wide receiver Drake Powell (Clinton) for an eight yard scoring pass with 1:05 left in the half.
- ETSU 17, The Citadel 7 – Opening the second half with the football, the Bucs took advantage of a pass interference call on the Bulldogs and moved to The Citadel 29-yard line. While the drive stalled, the Bucs still posted more points thanks to a 46-yard field goal by junior placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour). Moving 45 yards in seven plays, the Bucs lead grew to 10 points with 11:01 left in the third quarter.
- ETSU 17, The Citadel 14 – For the second time in the game, the Bulldogs put together a sustained offensive drive, capitalizing on a handful of third down conversions to go 75 yards in 14 plays and score on a one-yard dive by quarterback Dominique Allen. With 4:17 left in the third quarter, the Bucs’ advantage was cut to just three points.
- The Citadel 21, ETSU 17 – The Citadel’s grinding offensive approach continued to perplex the Bucs early in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs drove 66 yards in 11 plays to take their first lead of the game thanks to a misdirection play that resulted in a seven-yard touchdown run by Raleigh Webb. The extra point was good and ETSU trailed by four with 11:42 left in regulation.
- The Citadel 28, ETSU 17 – ETSU’s tough luck continued after a three-and-out, a punt and a strong punt return gave The Bulldogs quality field position at the Bucs’ 43-yard line. Four plays later, Allen found Webb again, hitting him on a perfectly thrown 28-yard scoring pass to make it 28-17 with 7:50 left in the game.
- The Citadel 28, ETSU 25 – After watching The Citadel put together three long, sustained scoring drives, the Bucs decided to do the same. Going 75 yards in nine plays, Herink went to the air to complete four passes and rushed for another 11 yards before Jajuan Stinson (Knoxville) capped the drive by scoring on a four-yard scamper. A two-point conversion pass from Herink to junior wide receiver Kobe Kelley (Knoxville) cut into The Citadel lead even further and the Bucs trailed by just three with 5:15 left in the game.
- The Citadel 31, ETSU 25 – The Bucs forced the Bulldogs into another third and long on the next possession, but a 44-yard pass from Allen to wide receiver Josh LeBlanc flipped the field and led to a 46-yard field goal by Jacob Godek that proved to be the margin of victory with 2:17 left in the game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- With his first quarter interception, senior safety Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas) now has two picks on the season, which ties him for the most by a single player in a season since the return of the program in 2015, when former cornerback Tavian Lott (D’Lo, Mississippi) reached that same number of interceptions.
- The Bucs are 15-11 all-time against The Citadel, with a 9-4 mark in games played in Johnson City.
- ETSU has now forced at least one turnover in eight straight games and in 18 of its last 21 contests.
- With his two extra points in the first half, Jerman now has 47 makes in his career which ranks seventh all time and is one shy of former kicker Jonathan Godfrey.
- The Bucs were just 2-of-12 on third down conversions, while The Citadel was 9-of-17 on third down.
- The Citadel ran 29 more plays than ETSU, 83-54, while out-gaining the Blue and Gold 435 to 208
- Nasir Player finished with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal
- After only scoring on one of its eight first-half drives, The Citadel scored on all four of its second-half drives en route to outscoring the Bucs, 24-11, in the second half
NEXT GAME UP
- The Bucs will be back at home next Saturday when they host SoCon foe Mercer inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium at 3:30 p.m.