ETSU moves into tie atop Southern Conference
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 6, 2021) – The notion of “defense wins championship” is coming to fruition in Johnson City as ETSU forced three turnovers en route to a 27-20 win over 18th-ranked VMI on Saturday afternoon at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium. With the win, the 14th-ranked Buccaneers improve to 8-1 on the season, including 5-1 in league play to sit atop the Southern Conference standings with both Chattanooga and Mercer.
It was another record-setting crowd on hand at Greene Stadium as ETSU welcomed 10,416 patrons into the facility, the third time that the Bucs have broken an attendance record at home this season. More importantly, ETSU is 3-0 in said games and 5-0 at home.
The Buccaneer defense forced three turnovers, all in the first quarter, as the Bucs used the blunders and momentum to jump out to a 21-0 advantage. ETSU’s defense would bend, but not break, holding VMI to just 20 points, a team that averaged 33.6 points per game coming into Saturday’s game. The Bucs were led in tackles by Donovan Manuel (Ellenwood, Ga.) who had a career-high 16 tackles, including one sack on the afternoon. Fresh off a career-best performance at Furman, Zach West (Boone, N.C.) concluded the game with a personal-best eight tackles. Both Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Zion Alexander (Norcross, Ga.) came up with key interceptions, while Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.) scooped up a fumble to halt a VMI drive deep into ETSU territory.
On a day where the passing game sputtered at times, the Bucs were able to depend on the ever-reliable ground game. Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) capped off the game with 161 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.) added 85 yards on the ground and 50 yards in the return game. Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) threw for 130 yards and one touchdown, including connecting three times for 85 yards with Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- ETSU 7, VMI 0: ETSU jumped on the scoreboard after capitalizing on an interception by linebacker Jared Folks. Quay Holmes punched it in four plays later with a 2-yard scamper for his first touchdown of the day.
- ETSU 14, VMI 0: The Bucs doubled their lead with another short field, this time an interception from Zion Alexander. Holmes tied the program record for his 44th career touchdown, this time from two yards out to double the Buccaneer lead.
- ETSU 21, VMI 0: ETSU padded its lead to 21 points following a two-yard touchdown connection between Tyler Riddell and Jawan Martin, capping off a 10-play, 69-yard drive.
- ETSU 21, VMI 3: The Keydets put points on the board with under one minute remaining in the half as Jerry Rice connected on a 48-yard field goal, one yard shy of tying his career high.
- ETSU 21, VMI 10: The Keydets scored their first touchdown of the game midway through the third quarter as Korey Bridy pounded the ball in from one yard out to trim the ETSU advantage to 11.
- ETSU 24, VMI 10: The Bucs added three more points to their cushion after Tyler Keltner connected from 35 yards out for his 35th career field goal.
- ETSU 24, VMI 17: VMI officially made it a one-score game with nine minutes remaining in the game after Seth Morgan scrambled for an eight-yard touchdown.
- ETSU 27, VMI 17: Keltner connected again to push the Buccaneer lead back to two possessions, this time knocking one in from 42 yards out, finishing an 8-play, 26-yard drive.
- ETSU 27, VMI 20: After being stopped on third down, the Keydets elected to kick a field goal as Jerry Rice was successful from 37 yards out, making it a one possession game yet again.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- With the win, ETSU improves to 8-1 on the season, marking the second time in the Randy Sanders era that ETSU has reached at least eight wins.
- The eight wins also ties the 2018 team for the third-most wins in a single season in ETSU history – the record is 10 set in 1969 and 1996.
- Following the victory, ETSU is now tied atop the SoCon standings with Mercer and Chattanooga at 5-1 – the Bears and Mocs will square off next weekend.
- This is the second time this season that Greene Stadium has achieved more than 10,000 fans to watch a Buccaneer victory.
- The Buccaneer ground game was critical today with Holmes and Saylors combining for 246 rushing yards, including Holmes’ 17th career 100-yard game.
- The 161 rushing yards by Holmes is the fifth-most rushing yards in a single game in his illustrious career.
- Holmes officially eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau this season, sitting at 1,087 rushing yards
- The Georgia running back also moved into a tie with ETSU all-time great Brandon Walker for first all-tim in career touchdowns (44) and career scoring (264).
- Saylors (2,191) was able to advance past both Derrick Hollins (2,141) and Jerry Butler (2,154) with his 85 yards today, sliding into eighth all-time in program history.
- Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) finished the game 2-for-2 in field goals, including knocking one in from 42 yards out for the second longest field goal this season.
- Keltner is now tied with Mike Shoun for the third-most field goals in a career with 36, one shy of tying Jerry Chapman (37) and 17 away from legendary kick JJ Jerman (53).
- Jared Folks’ first quarter interception is the third forced turnover for the Pennsylvania native against VMI in his career with the Bucs.
- ETSU now improves to 1-3 when coming off the bye week in the Sanders Era.
- With the win on Homecoming, ETSU improves to 4-2 in homecoming games since the return of football – there was no homecoming game in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This is the third time this season that the Buccaneer defense has forced three turnovers, doing so against Vanderbilt and Samford as well.
- The Keydets finished 9-of-20 in third-down conversions and 3-of-4 in fourth down – meanwhile ETSU finished 2-for-11 on third down and 1-of-2 in fourth down.
- VMI actually outgained the Bucs, 374-372, but the turnovers and rushing attack enabled the Bucs to come out with the victory.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will hit the road for one final time in the regular season, traveling to Cullowhee, N.C. to take on Western Carolina at 2 p.m. in the Blue Ridge Border Battle.
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