JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 4, 2017) – In the first Senior Day home finale for William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium, the ETSU football team used a suffocating defensive effort and a 14-point scoring surge in the second half to race past Southern Conference foe VMI, 24-6, Saturday afternoon.
Playing in front of a crowd of 7,327 fans, the Buccaneers improved to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in SoCon play. ETSU also kept alive its hopes of a winning season as the Bucs face a pair of SoCon road contests beginning next Saturday at No. 15 Samford. For the year, ETSU finished with a 4-2 record inside Greene Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Keydets – who were held to just 179 yards of total offense – dropped to 0-10, 0-7 on the year and will end their regular season next weekend when they host league-leading Wofford.
In all, 27 players competed in their final home game on Saturday, a group that included many who were part of the first recruiting class for the Bucs back in 2014. Some of those original Bucs included major contributors such as wide receiver Drake Powell (Clinton) and tailback Jajuan Stinson (Knoxville), as well as linebackers River Boruff (Sparta) and Trey Quillin (New Albany, Ohio).
As a team, the Bucs collected 259 yards in total offense, led by senior tailback Falon Lee (Macclenny, Fla.), who collected a career high 93 yards rushing and scored his first touchdown since a score back on Oct. 20, 2016 against West Virginia Wesleyan. Fellow senior tailback Jajuan Stinson (Knoxville) also collected a score in his final home game.
The Bucs other touchdown of the game came courtesy of the defensive unit, as a tipped pass fell into the arms of sophomore defensive lineman Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) and was returned for a touchdown late in the first quarter. ETSU also tacked on a 33-yard field goal from junior placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour).
Defensively, Boruff finished his final home game in an ETSU uniform with a team high eight tackles, while lineman Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Ga.) and linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) both collected seven tackles apiece.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- ETSU 3, VMI 0: Opening its first offensive possession with a 42-yard pass from Herink to Powell, the Bucs moved to the VMI 11-yard line before the Keydets stopped a third-and-short play for ETSU. Jerman came on to cap the eight-play, 61-yard drive with a field goal and the Bucs led 3-0 with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 10, VMI 0: The ETSU defense got into the scoring late in the first quarter, as VMI quarterback Duncan Hodges attempted a screen pass from the Keydets’ 12-yard line. The throw was tipped into the air by Bucs’ defensive lineman Jason Maduafokwa (Seymour) and the ball was intercepted by Player. The sophomore then rumbled in from four yards out and the ETSU lead grew to 10 with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 10, VMI 3: The Keydets broke through with some points on the final play of the first half, but the score only came following a gift from the Bucs. As ETSU was driving into VMI territory, Lee fumbled after a hit from the Keydets’ Brian Lipscomb. The ball was scooped up and returned 37 yards by linebacker Ryan Francis, and eight plays later placekicker Grant Clemons connected on a 20-yard field goal to cut the ETSU lead to seven points.
- ETSU 10, VMI 6: The Bucs were again in a giving mood on their first possession of the second half, as punter Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.) mishandled a snap and VMI took over on downs at the ETSU 14-yard line. ETSU’s defense held VMI out of the end zone once more, but Clemons connected on his second field goal of the day from 35 yards out and the Bucs’ lead was just four with 12:05 left in the third quarter.
- ETSU 17, VMI 6: After losing some momentum for much of the previous two quarters, the Bucs’ offense went to the ground game, rushing nine times on an 11-play drive that ended with a one yard scoring run by Lee. With 43 seconds left in the third quarter, ETSU’s lead increased to 11 points.
- ETSU 24, VMI 6: For the 16th time in his career, Stinson reached the end zone on a one-yard run midway through the final quarter. The score capped a seven-play, 58-yard drive that was aided by multiple pass interference calls against the Keydets. With 10:12 left in regulation, the ETSU lead increased to 18 points at 24-6.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- ETSU improved to 14-9 all-time against the Keydets with Saturday’s win. The Bucs are also now 9-2 all-time at home against VMI.
- The Bucs broke a streak of sorts on Saturday. Prior to the win over VMI, ETSU was just 1-6 all-time in games played on Nov. 4, and had lost six straight contests on that date.
- After going back-to-back games without a creating a turnover, the Bucs intercepted the Keydets twice in this game. The first was Player’s pick for a touchdown, while junior linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah) collected an interception late in the fourth quarter … Player’s interception was the first of his collegiate career, while Gatewood recorded his second.
- ETSU posted its fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season as the Blue and Gold totaled 132 rushing yards on Saturday.
- The Buccaneer defense held VMI to 57 rushing yards (1.8 per carry)
- After allowing VMI to convert on five third down chances in the first half, the Buccaneer defense held the Keydets to 0-of-5 on third down in the second half
- VMI manufactured the majority of its yards on the first and last drive of the game … The Keydets ran 23 plays for 120 yards in the opening and final drive of the contest, compared, to the Bucs holding VMI to 69 yards on 45 plays in its remaining 11 series.
- The defense totaled seven sacks – two each by Player and freshman linebacker Zack Yancey (Opelika, Ala.) … Boruff, Ferrell and Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) all added a sack each.
- In total, 26 Buccaneers accounted for their 70 tackles, including Bryce Suber (Lebanon, Tenn.), Spencer Brien (Gatlinburg, Tenn.), Jack Jones (Bristol, Tenn.), Jevon Gooden (Jamaica Queens, N.Y.), and Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas) all registering at least one tackle in their final collegiate game.
- Following his seven-tackle game, Weigel moved into ninth all-time in program history with 307.
- Jerman recorded his 33rd career field on Saturday … The Seymour, Tenn. native is five field goals shy of breaking the all-time school record.
- Senior Daren Ardis (Bradenton, Fla.) added five tackles and four pass break ups in his final home game.
- Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.) finished with a game-high 83 receiving yards in his last home game in the Blue and Gold
- The teams combined for 15 penalties for 139 yards … VMI – who entered the day as the fewest flagged team in the SoCon – totaled eight penalties for 75 yards.
- The Bucs finished the home season with an overall record of 4-2 ... In the six games, ETSU's defense held the opposition to 17.3 points per game.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will now play back-to-back road games to end their season, beginning next Saturday at Samford. Kickoff in Birmingham, Ala., is set for 3 p.m.