CHARLESTON, S.C. (Oct. 13, 2018) -- Who is that team all alone at the top of the Southern Conference football standings? That’s right … the No. 23-ranked ETSU Buccaneers.
Senior placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour) set a personal best and tied the school record for field goals with four in the game – none bigger than a go-ahead, 36-yard kick with four minutes left in regulation – and sophomore safety Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.) collected a pair of interceptions – one of which was returned for a touchdown in the final minutes – to lift the Bucs to a 26-23 win over Southern Conference foe The Citadel Saturday afternoon inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The Bucs, who improved to 6-1 overall and are a perfect 4-0 in SoCon play, are now off to their best start since the 1996 squad opened that season 8-1 on its way to a berth in the playoffs. Along with No. 4 Wofford’s upset loss to league rival Furman, the Bucs are now in sole possession of first place in the SoCon and have won back-to-back league road games for the first time since 1997. ETSU will travel to face Wofford next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Spartanburg, S.C.
Meanwhile, The Citadel dropped to 1-4 overall, 1-3 in SoCon play.
Picking up the program’s 350thwin all-time did not come easy for the Bucs. In an extremely physical game and with The Citadel relying on their methodical, triple-option offense, the Bucs’ defense was left in the position of bending but not breaking. In the end, the Bulldogs collected over 200 yards rushing and nearly 400 yards of total offense. However, Robinson’s two interceptions were huge, as one stopped a potential scoring drive and the other was returned for an ETSU touchdown. In addition, the Bucs twice stopped The Citadel on fourth down (4th-and-1 plays) conversion attempts at midfield, which led to two of Jerman’s field goals.
Along with Robinson’s efforts on defense – which included eight tackles – senior linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) had a team high 13 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) and senior linebacker Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.) had 10 and nine, respectively.
Offensively, senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland) posted a 162.5 quarterback rating on the afternoon, hitting on 15-of-20 pass attempts for 169 yards and a score. He collected those numbers despite being sacked four times and facing a relentless pass rush from The Citadel throughout the game. Senior wide receiver Kobe Kelley (Knoxville) collected a team high 80 yards receiving on the day and a touchdown.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- The Citadel 6, ETSU 0: After holding the Bucs’ first offensive possession to just three plays, the Bulldogs took over for their first drive of the game and wasted little time grabbing the lead. Despite all the talk throughout the week about The Citadel’s traditional triple-option running attack, it was a 69-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Black to Raleigh Webb that moved the ball to the ETSU 4-yard line. Two plays later Black jumped over the ETSU defensive line for a two-yard scoring run. The two-point conversion attempt failed but The Citadel led 6-0, having needed just four plays and 1:49 of game play to cover 75 yards and take the early advantage.
- The Citadel 6, ETSU 3: The Bucs’ defense provided a momentum-changing play midway through the first quarter, stopping a fourth-down conversion attempt by The Citadel and setting up the ETSU offense with quality field position at midfield. Nine plays later the Bucs had covered just 17 yards and taken 5:14 off the play clock, but Jerman was still able to get the Bucs on the board thanks to a 46-yard field goal with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 6, The Citadel 6: For the second time in as many possessions, The Citadel again attempted a fourth-down conversion at midfield and failed to reach the needed yardage for a first down, giving ETSU the ball at the Bulldogs 46-yard line. The Bucs opened that possession with a 17-yard pass to Kelley, and five plays later settled for another Jerman field goal, this time from 40 yards out that tied the game at 6-6 with 12:56 left in the first half.
- The Citadel 9, ETSU 6: The trading of field goals continued on the Bulldogs next possession, as the ETSU defense bent but did not break, forcing The Citadel to settle for a 36-yard kick from Jacob Godek to regain the lead at 9-6 with 8:14 left in the first half.
- ETSU 9, The Citadel 9: Before even getting to halftime, Jerman tied his career high for field goals in a game with three, as he connected on a kick of 31 yards to tie the game yet again with 3:07 left in the first half. The Bucs drive of 51 yards on 10 plays was their longest sustained drive of the game to that point and wrapped up the first-half scoring for both teams.
- ETSU 16, The Citadel 9: Herink took over on the Bucs first possession of the second half, using his feet to rush for yardage as well as evade the Bulldogs pass rush to buy time and find open receivers down field. In all, the Bucs went 85 yards in nine plays, as Herink threw for 69 yards on the drive – including passes of 41, 16 and 12 yards – and found Kelley for a touchdown on that final pass of the possession. Herink also rushed for 10 yards on the drive. With 7:46 left in the third quarter, the Bucs led 16-9.
- ETSU 16, The Citadel 16: It took a lot of time, but after scoring on their first drive of the game, the Bulldogs finally got back in the end zone early midway through the fourth quarter. This time, The Citadel used multiple third and fourth-down conversions to complete a 13-play, 48-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Black on a fourth-down play. With 8:40 left in the game, the game was tied for the third time in the game.
- ETSU 19, The Citadel 16: After a clutch eight-play, 55-yard drive by the Bucs – which included a critical third down conversion pass from Herink to Holmes – Jerman set his personal best and tied the school record with his fourth field goal of the day. This time, Jerman connected from 36 yards away and ETSU led once again with 4:02 left in regulation.
- ETSU 26, The Citadel 16: With the Bulldogs driving to try and tie the contest, Black attempted a fourth-down pass but the ball was tipped into the air off a wide receiver. The ball fell into the arms of ETSU’s Robinson, who then raced 42 yards for a touchdown. With less than two minutes left in regulation, the Bucs led by 10.
- ETSU 26, The Citadel 23: Holding a 10-point lead, the Bucs played off the ball and were content to let the clock run with the Bulldogs moved the ball down the field. Ultimately, The Citadel scored late on a three-yard run by Clay Harris, but with 32 seconds left, Artevius Smith (Birmingham, Ala.) recovered an on-side kick and the game was over.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- With the win Saturday, the Bucs are now 16-11 all-time when facing The Citadel. They are also now 7-7 in games played at Charleston, S.C., having not won on the road against the Bulldogs since a 20-7 win back in 2000.
- The Citadel’s 69-yard reception in the first quarter was the longest pass play given up by the Bucs this season. The previous long was a 57-yard pass in the opener versus Mars Hill back on Sept. 1.
- The Bucs have forced turnovers in 16 of their last 22 games and 26 of last 35 contests … ETSU is now 10-3 when forcing two or more turnovers in a game.
- With his 13 tackles on Saturday, Weigel now has 22 career games with double-digit tackles. He also moved to third on the ETSU all-time list with 384 total stops, passing former Buccaneer standout and Seattle Seahawk Maurice Kelly. Weigel continues to lead all active FCS players in career tackles.
- Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio)recorded the first double-digit tackle game of his career as he totaled 10 hits on the night, while Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.)added nine and Robinson – who has three interceptions in the last two games – tied a career high with eight tackles.
- ETSU kept its sack streak intact when Jason Maduafokwa (Seymour, Tenn.)brought down Jordan Black for a loss of 13 on the Bulldogs’ final drive of the game … The Bucs have now recorded at least one sack in all seven games this season.
- Jerman joined Pat Crust (vs. Western Carolina, 1992) and Herbie Campbell (Chattanooga, 1984) as the only ETSU players to make four field goals in one game … Jerman’s four field goals are tied for the second-most by an FCS player this season and the most by a SoCon kicker this season.
- The Citadel ran 26 more plans than ETSU – 77 to 51 – while the Bucs totaled 95 tackles on the afternoon.
- The time of possession was nearly even as the Bulldogs held the ball for 30:49; however, ETSU held The Citadel to 2-of-5 on fourth down … The Bulldogs entered the game 15-of-22 (68%) on fourth down chances.
- After being held to negative-1 yard on its first six plays, ETSU scored on six of its final seven drives – not including the last two plays of the first half.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will now head on the road for the second of two straight Southern Conference road games, as they travel to face Wofford in a 1:30 p.m. matchup with the No. 4-ranked Terriers next Saturday, Sept. 20 in Spartanburg, S.C.
For more on ETSU football throughout the 2018 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football link.