Football Press Conference vs. Samford
Football Press Conference vs. Samford
Monday, October 17, 2022

Bucs host Bulldogs for Homecoming on Oct. 22 at 3:30 p.m.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 17, 2022) – The first Homecoming game of the George Quarles era is set for Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3:30 p.m. as ETSU football hosts the No. 15 Samford Bulldogs inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City.

ETSU head coach George Quarles was joined by junior wide receiver Einaj Carter (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and sophomore defensive back Chris Hope (Madison, Ala.) during today’s press conference.

Below are comments from Coach Quarles, Carter and Hope.

Head Coach George Quarles

Your team was within five points at Mercer and it felt close at times. What was your assessment?

I think offensively, it goes back to kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Defensively, we gave up some big plays in that game. Third and long, we played really well and got off the field. Towards the end of the first half, we got four or five stops in a row that got us going. Then, the turnover in the first half that they scored on then the screen on third down, we just couldn’t quite get off the field. I told our staff this morning that there’s a few different ways we could look at that game. One, trying to take the positives away — we battled and competed…in the first half they had like 300 yards and we had 90 but it’s a one possession game. We cut it to 38-33 and we feel like we had a really good chance right there…the other way you look at it is that we’re not making enough plays, giving up too many plays to give ourself a chance to stay in the game. I don’t want to take anything away from Mercer. Mercer is a really good team with a great group of receivers, and defensively, they don’t give you much. We’ve got to find ways to run the football and that’s a little bit of a theme that’s come up this year.

Do you find that defenses are zoning in on the run game with Saylors back there?

No question. People go into the game saying ‘we can’t let number eight beat us’ and we have to be more creative in how we get those explosive plays. The way (Mercer) played, it was a three safety look — they weren’t going to give you the big play over the top. At the same time, they got their safeties involved in the run game which allowed them to play a really aggressive run defense. Jacob had 15 carries for minimal yardage with a couple of touchdowns, but we still got to figure out ways to get some explosive plays…at the end of the day, that was one of those games where you aren’t going to win kicking field goals. You got to score touchdowns in that game just because they are too good offensively.

What have you seen from Samford so far?

Same offense (as Mercer). They put up big numbers offensively. They’re throwing it around everywhere with some run game — they run zone read and counter. They don’t spend a whole lot of time running it, but they are fairly effective. I think the biggest difference for them is defensively — they are much better defensively than they have been in the last few years. They are running a bit of that Iowa State three safety defense. They’ve got several grad transfers that they brought in on defense that has them playing much better with a good defensive coordinator. I think that’s what stands out.

Samford is coming off a bye week and ETSU has played eight straight weeks. How does that impact Saturday’s game?

I don’t think there’s any question that we would love to have an open date — mentally, physically — just to recharge a little bit. We have to be smart as coaches and back off just a little bit on contact just to keep our guys as fresh as possible to get to the game. We are beat up, there’s no getting around it. We are playing with some guys that haven’t played as much, but we have that next man up mentality and that’s the reason you recruit — for depth in these situations. We look at it as a situation for somebody else to play. Obviously, it’s not ideal to play nine straight without an open date — it’d be great to have it right in the middle — but this is where we are.

Talk about the special teams unit and their impact on the game Saturday.

I thought the one area of the game that we played really, really well was special teams. We blocked another punt — Jawan Martin had the block and Erek Campbell scooping it up. Jaylen Frierson — I told Coach (Gary) Downs that we need to put him deep on the kick return team because that’s now a couple of kickoffs that he’s ran back for substantial yardage. Trace Kelley had a great week and averaged over 50 yards a punt. Obviously, Tyler Keltner. I just think guys that are backups at positions — get them out there on the field somewhere. Jawan Martin — he’s a do everything guy. He can do just about anything you want him to do. For him to get back there and block a punt was huge. Special teams are really important and our staff has done a good job of preparing those guys.

Does it feel good coming home after being on the road for so long?

Obviously, when you get home at 3 a.m. in the morning on a Sunday morning after a loss, it’s tough. But it’s always good to play at Greene Stadium. With a homecoming crowd, I’m sure a lot of people will be here. I know our guys love playing in front of our home crowd. Our fans are great. The energy that we get to play with here is incredible. Any advantage we can use, we want to use it. Our fans are the best, so we’re excited about not having to go anywhere and getting to play at home.


Wide Receiver – Einaj Carter

What was your takeaway from the Mercer game?

Obviously, we need those big plays. I feel like we made a lot, but we also made a lot of mistakes. That’s one thing I feel like took us downhill, because those were mistakes that Mercer capitalized on. Playing a good team like those guys, you can’t really make many mistakes (and expect to win). I think we’re right there. We’re going to get it figured out.

What has it been like having two different quarterbacks lately?

It’s going to be different, being used to Tyler, but both of those guys are smart and know what they’re doing. So when it comes down to it, both of them are going to make the right plays. We trust both of them, so we’re riding behind whoever is back there.

How does it feel to be playing back at home this week?

Of course, we love playing at home. Those long bus rides after an away game just don’t feel right. We love being home and love being able to play in front of our home crowd. (The fans) show out every time, so it’s fun.


Defensive Back – Chris Hope

What challenges did Mercer present with their offense Saturday?

Mercer’s offense is a lot of smoke and mirrors — a lot of motion and a lot of weird formations. I think we practiced it well during the week. I think we just have to do a better job of executing stuff on defense and make sure we’re fitting in the right gaps. Defensive backs having good eyes on the back end. I just think Mercer did a good job making some plays, we just have to come back next week and make some more plays.

What do you know about Samford’s offense?

I think it starts up front. I think we have to keep pressure on them and we’ve got the guys to do that. (Jalen Porter) is a great pass rusher on the back end. We just got to make sure we have good eyes and just play great man coverage on these guys and ger them on the ground once they get the ball.

What’s the team’s mindset at this point in the season?

I think at this point in the season we are playing the spoiler team trying to ruin everyone else’s season. I think that motivates us to keep playing hard and play for each other.

How did it feel to get your first interception and to be the first guy to pick off Mercer this year?

Getting that first interception last week was really cool — a big moment for me. Right now, I just want to keep moving forward and hopefully get a few more. As a group, I think we’ve done a great job of taking the ball away and I think we’ll continue to do that as the season goes on.

How does it feel to be playing back at home this week?

I think it’s definitely rejuvenating playing in front of the best fans, I think, in the SoCon. They’re second to none. It’ll give us a lot more energy playing against a pretty good team. Homecoming is a big deal around here, so I think it’ll be a great game for us.


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