CULLOWHEE, N.C. (Oct. 14, 2017) – Two halves of football could not have been any different for the ETSU football team.
Holding No. 21-ranked Western Carolina’s talented offense to only seven points and trailing just 7-3 at halftime, the Buccaneers suffered a collapse in multiple areas during the second half, as the Catamounts outscored ETSU 42-7 the rest of the way to take a 49-10 Southern Conference victory Saturday afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.
With the loss, ETSU falls to 3-4 overall on the season and 1-3 in SoCon play. Meanwhile, Western Carolina improved to 5-2, 3-1. Unfortunately for the Bucs, they remain winless on the road in SoCon play since rejoining the league in 2016.
Ironically, the Bucs – who have struggled to produce an effective rushing attack this season – did manage to rush for 137 yards against the Catamounts. It marked only the second time this year that the Bucs have eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game.
However, while those rushing numbers were improved, junior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland) struggled through his toughest game of the year, going just 11-of-30 through the air and having two interceptions returned for touchdowns. In addition, the Bucs allowed a blocked punt to be returned for a score, and a fumbled kickoff also helped the Catamounts add a late touchdown.
For the Bucs, senior tailback Falon Lee (Macclenny, Fla.) was a bright spot with a career high 85 yards rushing. Defensively, Black Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) and Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) led the way with six tackles apiece, and Bockrath enjoyed his second straight game with a sack.
For the Catamounts, freshman running back Donnavan Spencer put on a show with 139 yards rushing and four touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Tyrie Adams also rushed for 102 yards and accounted for a score as well.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- ETSU 3, Western Carolina 0: After holding the Catamounts on their first offensive drive, the Bucs wasted little time taking the lead. Thanks to a 13-play, 52-yard drive sustained primarily by a strong running attack, the Bucs cashed in thanks to a 45-yard field goal from junior kicker JJ Jerman (Seymour). With 12:14 left in the first quarter, ETSU had an early three-point lead.
- Western Carolina 7, ETSU 3: Despite being held in check for the majority of the first half, the Catamounts did manage to take the first half lead thanks to some quality field position. Taking over at the 50-yard line, Western Carolina covered that yardage in nine plays and ultimately scored on a 1-yard run by Spencer. With 9:45 left in the first half, the Catamounts led 7-3.
- Western Carolina 14, ETSU 3: Adams took over on Western Carolina’s first possession of the second half, collecting all 67 yards on the drive by either running or passing. The big play of the drive was a 40-yard scramble that then led to a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Cosenke. With 10:07 left in the third quarter, ETSU trailed by 11.
- Western Carolina 21, ETSU 3: Another big play cost the Bucs on Western’s next offensive possession, as Spencer broke free up the middle of the ETSU line and scored on a 41-yard scamper. The extra point was good and the Bucs trailed by 18.
- Western Carolina 28, ETSU 3: What turned out to be a nightmarish third quarter just got worse for the Bucs, as Herink tossed a pick six that was intercepted by defensive back John Brannon III and returned 44 yards for the score. It was the first interception for Herink in 17 quarters, dating back to The Citadel game. With 39 seconds left in the third quarter, Western led 28-3.
- Western Carolina 28, ETSU 10: Herink bounced back from the interception on the Bucs next possession, as he found wide receiver Anthony Spagnoletti (Bealeton, Va.) for a 43-yard gain. Four plays later the Bucs converted on fourth down, as Herink found fullback Haddon Hill (Knoxville) for a 10-yard scoring pass. It was Hill’s second career touchdown. With 12:19 left in regulation, the Bucs trailed by 18.
- Western Carolina 35, ETSU 10: After stopping the WCU offense and getting the ball back with 10 minutes left in the game and trailing by 18, Herink attempted to go deep again but this time Brannon III was there for his second interception of the game. He then returned the ball 56 yards to the ETSU 6-yard line, and on the Catamounts’ first play from scrimmage Spencer rumbled in for the score.
- Western Carolina 42, ETSU 10: With the game in hand and just five minutes left, Western Carolina was not willing to just accept an ETSU punt and run out the clock. Instead, the Catamounts sent a punt block and rejected the kick of Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.), which was pick up by Tyran Reynolds and returned for a score.
- Western Carolina 49, ETSU 10: After the blocked punt, ETSU’s special teams struggled to field the Catamounts ensuing kickoff and the ball was recovered by Western Carolina at the ETSU 21-yard line. Three plays later, Spencer scored for the fourth time to cap the game’s scoring.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- With 8,300 in attendance, the home fans watched Western Carolina improve to 24-22-1 all-time against the Bucs.
- ETSU offensive lineman Greg McCloud (Nashville) made his season debut on Saturday after having not played since the 2016 season opener at Kennesaw State.
- The Bucs, who had forced a turnover in 11 straight games, watched that streak come to an end on Saturday. Instead, it was the Bucs who committed three turnovers in the game, and the Catamounts cashed those miscues into 21 points.
- Following his extra-point, Jerman moved into a tie for third all-time with 54, alongside former kicker Bobby Neff.
- Western Carolina went 10-of-18 on third down, while the Bucs were just 4-of-17.
- The Bucs have now been outscored 80-19 in third quarter play this season.
- ETSU average starting field position was its own 22-yard line, while Western Carolina started from its 38.
NEXT GAME UP:
The Bucs will head into its open week before returning home to host SoCon foe Wofford on Saturday, Oct. 28 inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.