ETSU snatches league’s automatic bid in to FCS playoffs
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 20, 2021) – The ETSU Football team has officially been crowned CHAMPIONS of the Southern Conference. In a winner-take-all, de facto title match, the Bucs outlasted the Bears 38-35 in front of yet another William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium record crowd of 10,594 patrons. With the win, ETSU hoisted the trophy en route to its second SoCon championship in the Randy Sanders era.
With the win, ETSU improves to 10-1 on the season and 7-1 in league action. Meanwhile, Mercer falls to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in SoCon play.
The game was not decided until the closing seconds as Mercer’s attempt at a game-tying field goal sailed wide left as the clock struck zero. Prior to the attempt, Devin Folser banged one off the right upright and in between the posts, but the Bucs called a strategic timeout.
In a game where the defense had its hands full, the Buccaneer offense continued to shine as it has done all season. Quarterback Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) completed a career-high 26-of-29 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Riddell connected with Malik Murray (Duluth, Ga.) for two touchdowns and 73 yards, while finding go-to receiver Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.) for 76 yards and one touchdown. Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) continued to do his thing with 132 yards on the ground, becoming ETSU’s all-time single-season (1,431) and career (4,142) rushing leader.
The Buccaneer defense was able to force three turnovers for the fifth time this season, led by Alijah Huzzie (Franklin, Ga.) with two interceptions and Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.) with one interception. ETSU was led in tackles by veteran linebacker Jared Folks (Harrisburg, Pa.) with 11.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- ETSU 7, Mercer 0: The Bucs struck first with a deep connection between Tyler Riddell and Malik Murray on the second drive of the game as Riddell sailed the ball for a 43-yard strike to the Georgia product.
- ETSU 7, Mercer 3: The Bears cut into the Buccaneer advantage with a 26-yard field goal on their next drive with ETSU keeping them from the endzone.
- Mercer 10, ETSU 7: The Bears jumped out in front on the first play of the second quarter as Fred Davis scrambled for a five-yard score to cap off a 5-play, 50-yard drive.
- ETSU 14, Mercer 10: Tyler Riddell accounted for a second touchdown in the opening half with a quarterback sneak up the gut from one yard out to put the Bucs back on top.
- ETSU 21, Mercer 10: ETSU added to its lead in the closing minute of the first half with Quay Holmes pounding the ball in from eight yards out for his 16th rushing touchdown of the season.
- ETSU 21, Mercer 17: The Bucs surrendered a 66-yard pass play from Fred Payton to Ty James, setting up the eventual Fred Davis touchdown rush.
- ETSU 21, Mercer 20: Mercer cut further into the ETSU advantage with a 31-yard field goal from Devin Folser.
- Mercer 28, ETSU 21: The Bears jumped back in front after their 18th unanswered point after Fred Payton found Ethan Dirrim for a five-yard strike. Mercer converted the two-point conversion to make it a seven-point contest.
- ETSU 28, Mercer 28: Tyler Riddell threw his second touchdown of the game, this time connecting with Will Huzzie for a 6-yard touchdown strike to even things at 28-28.
- Mercer 35, ETSU 28: The Bears jumped right back on top after Ty James hauled in a slant rout and broke an ETSU tackle for a 48-yard touchdown score.
- Mercer 35, ETSU 31: Tyler Keltner connected on his first field goal attempt of the afternoon, burying one from 41 yards out to trim the Buccaneer deficit to just four.
- ETSU 38, Mercer 35: The Bucs scored the final touchdown of the game as Riddell connected with Malik Murray for the second time in the victory, this time a 13-yard fade route to put the Bucs on top for good.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- With the win, ETSU becomes the third team in program history to win 10 games, which also marks the most in single-season history.
- This marks the fifth conference title in program history as the Bucs shared the SoCon title in 2018, while winning the Ohio Valley Conference outright in 1969, shared the OVC crown in 1962 and were the Smoky Mountain Conference champions in 1938.
- The Bucs earned the SoCon automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs … ETSU will be making its third playoff appearance in school history (2018 and 1996).
- ETSU has now scored 390 points, setting a new single-season record … The previous record was held by the 1996 team with 378 points.
- Saturday marked the fourth time this season ETSU won when trailing entering the fourth quarter.
- For the fourth time this season, ETSU set an attendance record with Saturday’s announced crowd being 10,594 – the third time Greene Stadium had a crowd of over 10,000 this year.
- ETSU’s third scoring drive of the game was a 15-play, 97-yard drive, resulting in the second-longest drive in terms of yards on the season … The Bucs have had five scoring drives of 90 or more yards this year.
- Quay Holmes posted his 19th career 100-yard rushing game as he ran for 132 yards and one touchdown … Holmes passed Brandon Walker for the all-time program rushing record as he now has 4,142 yards.
- Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors combined for over 10,000 career all-purpose yards … The Buccaneer duo now have 10,296 combined all-purpose yards.
- Tyler Keltner’s 41-yard field goal with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter was his 37th career make, tying him with Jerry Chapman for second among all-time Buccaneer leaders.
- Malik Murray had two touchdown receptions as he scored on a 43-yard pass for the first touchdown on the afternoon and hauled in the game-winning score from 13 yards out … Murray became the first Buccaneer player with two touchdown receptions since Sept. 30, 2017 when Vincent Lowe had two touchdowns at Furman.
- Will Huzzie finished with a game-high eight receptions … The eight catches tied a career high for the Buccaneer receiver.
- Will Huzzie now ranks 10th all-time among single-season Buccaneer leaders with 53 receptions … Huzzie has 101 career receptions, moving him to ninth all-time … The Buccaneer standout moved to 10th all-time with 1,399 receiving yards.
- Donovan Manuel totaled six tackles on Saturday and now has 103 on the season, becoming the first ETSU player to post 100 tackles in a season since Dylan Weigel totaled 106 in 2016.
The Bucs earned the SoCon’s automatic bid into the upcoming FCS Playoff and will learn who, where and when they will be playing next. The FCS Playoff selection show will be tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
For more information on Buccaneer football, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football page.