LEXINGTON, Va. (Sept. 14, 2018)– It was not easy, but for the first time since rejoining the Southern Conference in 2016, the ETSU football team enjoyed a road victory in league play as the Buccaneers secured a 27-24 win over VMI Friday afternoon at Foster Stadium.
Shored up by a defensive unit that held VMI to minus 28 yards rushing, collected eight sacks and forced six turnovers on the day – including five interceptions and a fumble recovery – the Buccaneers overcame four turnovers of their own and 142 yards in penalties to take the victory. In fact, the game was still in doubt in the waning seconds until the Bucs defense forced a VMI turnover on downs deep in ETSU territory with 41 seconds left in the contest.
With the win, the Bucs improve to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in SoCon play, as they return to Johnson City for a matchup with rival Furman next Saturday evening at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Counting the Bucs’ absence from football spanning 2002 to 2015, the team went 5,831 days between road wins in SoCon play. The last was a 27-7 victory at Western Carolina back on Sept. 28, 2002.
Meanwhile, the Keydets drop to 0-3 and have lost 20 straight games since last winning in 2016.
“I thought our defense played really well and anytime you force six turnovers that’s a good thing,” said first year head coach Randy Sanders. “But on the flipside, we gave them 14 points with our own turnovers. I thought the guys played hard, but we have to learn to play smart. Sometimes it’s just common football sense, and it seems sometimes we lose that. We have to eliminate those mistakes.”
Sanders said despite those issues, it was good to go home a winner. Along with the first conference road victory in 16 years, it was the Bucs second road win in total since returning to the football field in 2015.
“I told the guys we had a chance to do something that hasn’t happened here in a long time — and we did it,” said Sanders, referencing the Bucs’ win over Kennesaw State in the 2016 season opener. “But when you’re on the road in conference play, it’s always tough and we needed to learn how to do that.”
On the defensive side of the ball, senior transfer linebacker Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Penn.) and junior defensive back Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the way, as each collected seven tackles and an interception. Folks also finished with 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
As for the offense, the Bucs rushed for 143 yards, marking the third straight game with 100-plus yards on the ground as a team. This is the first time since the 2016 season the Bucs can claim that distinction. However, the offense did struggle to move the ball for much of the contest, as senior transfer quarterback Logan Marchi (Winsted, Conn.) was 15-of-36 on the day for 181 yards and three interceptions.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- ETSU 7, VMI 0: The Bucs did not take long to grab the advantage. Following a three-and-out for VMI on its first offensive possession, the Keydets were forced to punt. For the Bucs, redshirt junior wide receiver and punt returner Quan Harrison (Greeneville) was waiting and returned the kick 69 yards for a score, marking the first ETSU punt return for a touchdown since Anthony Stringfield took a kick 91 yards against The Citadel back on Oct. 11, 1997. With 13:34 left in the first quarter, the Bucs led by seven.
- ETSU 7, VMI 7: Unable to capitalize on the Keydets’ three interceptions in the first quarter, the Bucs looked on as VMI put together an 80-yard, 15-play drive to tie the score on a one-yard run by Quan Myers at the 14-minute mark of the second quarter.
- VMI 14, ETSU 7:OnETSU’s’ first play following the Keydets’ opening score, Marchi was intercepted by VMI’s Devin Carper, who returned the ball 15 yards for another touchdown. The extra point was good and with 13:52 left before halftime, ETSU trailed 14-7.
- VMI 14, ETSU 10:After giving up 14 straight points to the Keydets, the Bucs put together a sustained drive that covered 70 yards on 15 plays and took over nine minutes off the clock. Unfortunately for ETSU, the drive stalled at the VMI 8-yard line and the team settled for a 25-yard field goal off the foot of senior placekicker JJ Jerman (Seymour).With 4:13 left in the half, the Bucs had cut the deficit to four.
- VMI 17, ETSU 10: Taking advantage of a punt into the wind by ETSU’s’ Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.), VMI took possession at their own 40-yard line and using their pass-dominant offense, hit on a pair of long plays through the air to move to the Bucs’ 3-yard line. At that point, ETSU held the Keydets to a 21-yard field goal by Reed King and regained their seven-point lead with 1:11 left in the half.
- VMI 17, ETSU 13: With just over a minute left before the break, the Bucs got a 69-yard kickoff return from redshirt freshman running back Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) that set up the ETSU offense at the VMI 29-yard line. Seven plays later, the Bucs found themselves at the Keydet 2-yard line facing a fourth down and elected to kick another field goal, as Jerman was good from 19 yards out and ETSU trailed 17-13 at the break.
- ETSU 20, VMI 17: On VMI’s first possession of the second half,Folks forced a fumble on a sack of VMI quarterback Reece Udinski and defensive lineman Jason Maduafokwa (Seymour) recovered the loose ball to set up the ETSU offense at the Keydets’ 22-yard line. Three plays later, Marchi scrambled in from 19 yards out for a score and Jerman’s extra point was good, making it 20-17 in favor of ETSU with 11:12 left in the third quarter.
- VMI 24, ETSU 20: A second Marchi interception was returned 54 yards to the ETSU 1-yard line by VMI defensive back Collin Loftis. Three plays later, Udinski found running back Alex Ramsey for a one-yard touchdown score and the Bucs again found themselves trailing by four with 2:33 left in the third quarter.
- ETSU 27, VMI 24:Responding to the interception that set up an easy score for VMI’s offense, the Bucs put together a methodical drive that covered 57 yards on 11 plays and ended with a two-yard run by Holmes to make it 27-24 in favor of the Bucs with 11:50 left in the game. It would be the last score of the contest. On that drive, Holmes carried the ball seven times to power the drive.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Three ETSU players collected interceptions in the first quarter of Friday’s game. Lewis collected his second career pick on VMI’s second offensive possession, followed by senior defensive back Domenique Williams (Charlotte, N.C.) with the third interception of his career, and then Folks stopped another Keydet drive with his own interception. In the second half, defensive backs Karon Delince (Phenix, Ala.) and MJ Woods (Seale, Ala.) both collected picks. The Bucs five interceptions are the most in a single game since the program returned in the fall of 2015 … In addition, ETSU totaled five interceptions all last year and had 12 in the first three seasons combined … The five interceptions were one shy of tying the program of six, which occurred three previous times – the last coming against Newberry in 1991.
- ETSU has forced at least one turnover in 14 of its last 19 games and in 24 of its last 32 contests … The Bucs have registered 10 games with at least two turnovers since restarting the program in 2015 – ETSU is 7-3 in those contests.
- ETSU defense held VMI to 290 yards of total offense – 305 passing and negative-15 rushing … The Bucs entered the day as the SoCon leader in rush defense with 102 yards per game … The negative-28 rushing yards marks the second-fewest yards allowed by an FCS team this season.
- The Bucs’ eight sacks were the most since recording eight in last season’s win over Robert Morris (Oct. 7, 2017).
- To go with his 181 yards passing, Marchi totaled 12 rushres for 68 yards (5.7 yards per carry), including the 19-yard touchdown run.
- Quay Holmes finished with 165 all-purpose yards – 69 rushing, 91 kickoff return and five receiving yards.
- Following his five-tackle performance at VMI, senior linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) moved his career total to 346 tackles, which leads all active FCS players. Weigel ranks seventh all-time in program history in total tackles and needs 107 total tackles to break Mario Hankerson record of 452, which was set from 1994-97. Weigel now needs two tackles to move pas Marcus Huff (1989-92) for sixth all-time.
- The Bucs’ special teams had a strong day. Along with Harrison’s punt return for a score and Holmes long kickoff return that set up a score, Watson finished with a good day despite punting into the wind for half the contest. Watson finished with eight punts for a 39-yard average, but two of those punts were long and came late in the game, flipping the field position with the Bucs clinging to a three-point lead. In addition, Jerman’s two kicks were also impressive given the weather conditions.
- Following Jerman’s two field goals, the Buccaneer kicker moved his career total 37, which ties him with Jerry Chapman (1995-97) for the all-time program record … In addition, Jerman now has 68 extra-points, which is five shy of passing Mike Shoun (1987-90) for second all-time.
- Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Keith Coffee (Miami) finished with career highs in receptions (6) and receiving yards (63).
- After starting each of ETSU’s 35 games since returning to football in 2015, senior defensive lineman Chris Bouyer (Rock Hill, S.C.) saw his consecutive streak come to an end against VMI.
- Despite going 5-of-19 on third down, the Bucs converted on both fourth down attempts on Friday … The Buccaneer defense held VMI to 5-of-17 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth down.
- The Buccaneer offensive line did not allow a sack on Friday, marking the first time since the program returned an ETSU quarterback did not get sacked
- ETSU now leads the all-time series with VMI, 15-9, and the Bucs have won eight of the last 10 and 11 of the last 13 meetings. Friday marked the 13th game played in Lexington and VMI now holds a slight 7-6 advantage.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will return to Johnson City and begin a three-game home stand next Saturday when they host Furman at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium at 7:30 p.m.