Saylors breaks ETSU single-game rushing record in win
CULLOWHEE, N.C. (Nov. 13, 2021) – The Buccaneer football team continued its step in the direction of a Southern Conference regular season title on Saturday with a thrilling 56-35 victory over Western Carolina in Cullowhee, N.C. With the win, the Bucs retain the Blue Ridge Border Battle trophy, becoming the first team in the rivalry to do so.
ETSU improves to 9-1 on the season, including 6-1 in SoCon action to sit atop the league standings with Mercer. Following the loss, Western Carolina falls to 3-7 on the campaign and 3-4 in league play.
The Buccaneer offense came to play as ETSU ran for a total of 461 yards, including a new single-game program record 266 yards from Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.). Saylors broke the previous record of 255 set by Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) against Mercer on Nov. 16, 2019. Saylors shattered his own personal record of 136 yards by a total of 130 yards and also recorded his first three-touchdown performance in his collegiate career. Not to be outdone, Holmes rushed into the record books needing just one touchdown and one point to pass Brandon Walker in both career categories. The Georgia product finished the game with 212 rushing yards and three touchdowns, bringing his career total to 47 total touchdowns and 282 career points, a new ETSU program record.
The Buccaneer defense was led by Donovan Manuel (Ellenwood, Ga.) with a team-high 15 tackles, followed by nine tackles from Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.). ETSU’s defense struggled in the opening half, allowing 35 points. However, the Buccaneer defense returned to form, pitching a second-half shutout to preserve the win and stop the high-potent Catamount offense. ETSU’s defense forced three turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by Di’Andre Davis (Charlotte, N.C.) and Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.). Manuel recorded his first fumble of the season and Rodney Wright (Athens, Ga.) picked up his first career fumble in the first half.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- ETSU 7, WCU 0: After a three-and-out to open the game, ETSU forced a Western Carolina turnover and turned that into seven quick points with a 35-yard rush from Jacob Saylors.
- ETSU 7, WCU 7: 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 14, WCU 7: It was another conversion off a turnover, this time it was Quay Holmes punching it in from six yards out following the Di’Andre Davis interception to put the Bucs back on top.
- ETSU 14, WCU 14: Western Carolina drew even again as Rogan Wells found TJ Jones for an eight-yard touchdown strike to cap off an 11-play, 79-yard drive.
- ETSU 21, WCU 14: The Bucs jumped back on top with another touchdown rush from Holmes, this time from two yards out. The drive was kept alive with a big third-down conversion as Riddell round Malik Murray for 26 yards.
- ETSU 21, WCU 21: The Catamounts wasted no time in tying the track meet yet again, this time taking the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to the house for the equalizer.
- WCU 28, ETSU 21: The Catamounts jumped on top on their first play of the drive as Rogan Wells tossed his third touchdown, this time finding Raphael Williams for a 54-yard connection.
- ETSU 28, WCU 28: It was ETSU that converted the fourth-down play this time, resulting in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Riddell to Jawan Martin – Martin’s longest reception of his career.
- WCU 35, ETSU 28: The Catamounts scored on their third consecutive drive with Wells tossing his fourth touchdown of the opening half, finding Owen Cosenke for the 15-yard touchdown.
- ETSU 35, WCU 35: The Bucs tied the contest up for the fifth tie of the first half as Jacob Saylors punched the ball in from 14 yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
- ETSU 42, WCU 35: ETSU climbed back in front thanks to an 80-yard drive that was capped off with a Tyler Riddell quarterback sneak up the gut. The touchdown drive was set up by 75 yards on the ground from Jacob Saylors.
- ETSU 49, WCU 35: The Bucs went up by a pair of touchdowns as Jacob Saylors was able to polish off his well-deserved effort! Saylors punched the ball in from one yard out, capping off a drive in which he broke the ETSU single-game rushing record.
- ETSU 56, WCU 35: The final score came via the ground game to nobody’s surprise as Holmes rushed for 41 yards for his third rushing touchdown of the contest.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- With the win, the Bucs earn win No. 9, marking the third-most wins in a single season in program history and the most wins in the Randy Sanders era.
- Following the win, ETSU evened the all-time series against the Catamounts at 25-25-1 – while also picking up the first win in Cullowhee since Sept. 28, 2002.
- The 56 points by the Bucs is the most points by ETSU against the Catamounts in program history.
- Midway through the opening quarter, Quay Holmes tallied his 45th career touchdown and 270th career point, passing ETSU Hall of Famer Brandon Walker for first all-time in both career touchdowns and career scoring.
- Following his 266-yard performance, Saylors now has 2,457 career rushing yards, having moved past George Searcy (2,262), Earl Ferrell (2,309), Greg Stubbs (2,317) and Herman Jacobs (2,421) into fourth all time in program history.
- Saylors’ 266-yard game also sits T-13th in SoCon history for rushing yards in a single game and is the third-highest rushing total by a running back in the FCS this season.
- Saylors and Holmes became the first duo this season to each rush for over 200 yards at the FCS level.
- The dynamic backfield is also the first ETSU duo to ever have two players rush for 200 yards in the same game.
- The Bucs finished with 461 rushing yards tonight, marking the second-most rushing yards by a team in the FCS this season and the most rushing yards against a Division I opponent – Mercer recorded 539 rushing yards against Point.
- Holmes now needs 86 yards to pass Walker on the all-time rushing leaderboard and is 26 yards shy of passing George Searcy for the most rushing yards in a single season.
- Holmes now sits at 4,010 career rushing yards, becoming the second player in program history to reach 4,000 career rushing yards.
- ETSU was a perfect 5-for-5 in redzone scores and finished 5-11 in third-down conversions and 1-1 in fourth-down attempts.
- Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) concluded the game with a perfect 8-of-8 mark in PAT attempts, moving just nine PATs behind legendary kicker JJ Jerman.
- This is the fourth time this season that the Buccaneer defense has forced three turnovers, including back-to-back weeks.
- Western Carolina outgained ETSU, 544-536, doing the bulk of their damage in the first half.
- Western Carolina’s Calvin Jones returned a kickoff 95 yards for the first kickoff return for a touchdown that ETSU has allowed since Sept. 30, 2017.
NEXT GAME UP
ETSU will close out the 2021 regular season next Saturday with a home battle against Mercer with a winner-take-all showdown. Kickoff at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium is set for 1 p.m.
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