JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 17, 2018) -- With their eyes set on an outright Southern Conference football championship, the ETSU football team instead had to settle for a share of the title.
Leading 27-24 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers were unable to hold the lead, as league foe Samford scored a pair of touchdowns over the final 15 minutes of play to take a 38-27 win Saturday afternoon on Senior Day inside William B. Greene Jr. Stadium.
A sellout crowd of 8,749 fans looked on as the Buccaneers dropped to 6-2 in SoCon play and 8-3 overall. ETSU will now await the FCS Playoff Pairing Show on ESPNU at 12:30 p.m. Sunday to learn their opponent for the national playoffs, which start next Saturday. Meanwhile, Samford improved to 5-3 in league play and 6-5 overall.
The Bucs, who have won their six league games by a total of 16 points, seemed to have had some magic left with 3:10 left in regulation and trailing Samford by four. The ETSU defense appeared to have sacked Samford quarterback Delvin Hodges for an 18-yard loss and had drawn a penalty flag for grounding. The result of that play would have had Samford facing a 2nddown and 28 from their own 47-yard line.
Instead, the head official who had thrown the flag, conferred with the line judge positioned on the Samford sideline and reversed his call. The Bulldogs took advantage of that change and four plays later scored to make it an 11-point game, ending the Bucs’ comeback hopes.
While it was not the result the Bucs wanted, the players who joined the reborn ETSU program in 2014 – when there was not even a football on the campus – still celebrated a share of the SoCon title. Those players included senior linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio), who finished with a game high 10 tackles on the day, as well as senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland), who collected a pair of rushing scores in the loss.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- ETSU 3, Samford 0: Taking the opening kickoff and moving it to the Samford30-yard line in eight plays, the Bucs took the early lead thanks to a 47-yard field goal from senior JJ Jerman (Seymour). It marked the 16thfield goal of the season for Jerman, and set a new program single-season record. With 11:37 left in the first quarter, the Bucs led 3-0.
- ETSU 10, Samford 0: TheBucs took advantage of a mistake by Samford’s All-SoCon quarterback Devlin Hodges on the Bulldogs first offensive possession of the game, as sophomore safety Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.)collected his fifth interception of the season on a pass over the middle and returned it to the Samford 17-yard line. Four plays later, the Bucs scored on a six-yard touchdown run by Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) and led 10-0 with 9:24 left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 10, Samford 7: Samford’s high-powered offense broke through on the scoreboard on its second possession of the game, moving the ball 75 yards in 11 plays and ultimately scoring on a fourth-down play at the ETSU 3-yard line. The scoring play was a reverse that appeared to be designed to throw the ball back to Hodges, but wide receiver Andrew Harris simply kept the ball on the play and found the end zone.
- Samford 14, ETSU 10: The Bulldogs scored for the second straight possession, once again putting together a long, sustained drive of 89 yards on 13 plays. The score came courtesy of Hodges, who dropped back to pass but then pulled the ball down for a nine-yard scoring run. With 13:43 left in the first half, the Bucs trailed 14-10.
- ETSU 17, Samford 14: After getting a defensive stop and forcing a Samford punt from its own end zone, the Bucs took advantage of the quality field position at their own 48-yard line and needed just six plays to cover the distance for a score. The drive was highlighted by a perfect 29-yard pass from Herink to wide out Braxton Richburg(Hoschton, Ga.) and later by Herink's strong 11-yard scoring scramble. With 6:22 left in the first half, the Bucs led once again.
- ETSU 24, Samford 14: The Bucs’ defense again forced a Samford punt, which was shanked out of bounds at the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line. Once again, ETSU utilized the plus field position to score in just seven plays. The drive was capped by another Herink run, this time from one yard away and gave ETSU its second 10-point lead of the game with 1:48 left in the half.
- ETSU 24, Samford 17: With just108 seconds left in the half, Samford raced down the field in 10 plays, covering 64 yards and tacking on a 28-yard field goal from Mitchell Fineran as time expired in the first half.
- ETSU 24, Samford 24: After being stopped on their first drive of the second half, the Bulldogs put together their third long drive of the game to tie the score. Covering 91 yards in 10 plays, Hodges again had to forgo the air attack and used a two-yard run to score and tie the game at 24 with 4:59 left
- ETSU 27, Samford 24: Herink provided some heroics again, avoiding a sack and then rumbling for a career-long, 42-yard scramble that moved the ball into Samford territory. From there, the Bucs drive stalled but ETSU still regained the lead thanks to another Jerman field goal, this time from 39 yards out with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
- Samford 31, ETSU 27: Samforddid not stay behind for long,as the Bulldogs put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive and took 5:33 off the clock to ultimately score on another Hodges two-yard run. It marked his third rushing score of the game and Samford led by four with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.
- Samford 38, ETSU 27: After what appeared to be an intentional grounding call against the Bulldogs was reversed, Samford used that good fortune to put the game away four plays later on a three-yard run by DeMarcus Ware.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- The announced crowd of 8,749 was the third largest Greene Stadium history and marked the eighth sellout in 12 games all-time in the venue
- The Bucs honored 32 players, assistant student coach Dylan Wieger and five support staff members during their pregame Senior Day ceremony ... One of those seniors was defensive lineman Chris Bouyer (Rock Hill, S.C.), who proposed to his girlfriend following the game on Saturday
- Herink’s 42-yard run midway through the third quarter was the longest of his career, while he also tied a career high with two rushing scores as the Buccaneer quarterback has now accomplished the feat three times in his career
- Jerman’s two field goals on the day give him a total of 17 this season, which is a new program record … Jerman also holds the career record with 51 makes, while he passed Jerry Chapman for second on the all-time scoring list on Saturday … After collecting nine points on Saturday, Jerman now sits at 244 for his career, which is 20 points shy of passing Brandon Walker’s all-time mark of 264
- Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.) averaged 41.2 yards per punt, including a long of 55 yards and three of his five punts landed inside the 20
- Freshman running back Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.) finished with 181 all-purpose yards on Saturday … Saylors totaled 121 kickoff return yards, 41 receiving yards and 19 rushing yards … In his last three games, Saylors has accumulated 559 of his 1,103 all-purpose yards on the season
- ETSU has forced at least one turnover in 19 of its last 26 games and in 29 of its last 39 contests
- Tyree Robinson registered his fifth interception this season … As a team, ETSU totaled five interceptions all of last season, while the Bucs lead the SoCon with 13 this year
- Zack Yancey (Opelika, Ala.), Jason Maduafokwa (Seymour, Tenn.) and Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) accounted for the three Buccaneer sacks on Saturday … Yancey also added a career-high eight tackles, while Maduafokwa finished with six hits and 2.5 tackles for loss
- The Bucs’ eight wins and six SoCon wins are the most by a Buccaneer team since 1996 ... The eight wins are also the third-most in program history with the 1996 and 1969 teams finishing with 10 victories
- Dylan Weigel now has 25 double-digit tackle games in his career and moved his career total to 416 — which leads all active FCS players
- Quay Holmes totaled his SoCon-leading 13th rushing touchdown on Saturday … The 13 rushing touchdowns are tied for the second-most in program history
- Samford ran 22 more plays than the Blue and Gold en route to outgaining the Bucs, 486 to 339 … ETSU surrendered 404 passing yards on Saturday, marking the most given up this season, while the 486 total yards were the second-most this year … The Bucs finished with 153 yards on the ground and 161 through the air
- Hodges finished with 404 passing yards and broke Steve McNair’s all-time FCS passing record of 14,496 as the Samford senior quarterback finished his collegiate career with 14,584 career passing yards
- The Bulldogs were 10-of-16 on third down (1-of-1 on fourth down), while ETSU was 7-of-15 and 1-of-1 on fourth
- Both teams turned the ball over once with ETSU converting its takeaway into a touchdown, while Samford’s defensive takeaway came on the Bucs’ final drive of the game
- The Bucs were 3-of-3 in red zone scoring (all touchdowns), while Samford was 6-of-6 (five touchdowns, one field goal)
The Bucs will wait to see who, where and when they will play again as the FCS Playoff Bracket will be released nationally beginning at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
For more on ETSU football throughout the 2018 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football link.