After the ETSU football team ended the season with a big win over Kentucky Wesleyan, the Buccaneers started immediate preparation for next season.
“That win against Kentucky Wesleyan came at the perfect time,” said coach Carl Torbush. “I’m glad we played them [the] last game of the season, as oppose to beating them, then losing to another team to end the season.”
The coaches talked last Monday about what the team has to do moving forward to build on the team’s improvement toward the end of this season. Torbush said this season was a learning experience that showed the players how to react in certain situations in the seasons to come.
The staff will be evaluating all of the players and positions to see where all of the individual players stand going into next season, Torbush said.
This season, ETSU finished with a 2-9 record but faced five teams that were in the FCS Top 25. Torbush said he was proud that the team was ranked in the top 10 in fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards this season.
ETSU football home games averaged over 7,000 fans this season. ETSU broke ground on the new football stadium last month and is expecting the new stadium to be ready in 2017.
“The support for ETSU football this year has been amazing, and we would like to thank the fans for coming out and watching all of the games this season,” said Torbush.
According to ETSU Athletics, the Bucs will play a full Southern Conference schedule next season. This year they were considered FCS Independent and only played one SoCon team: Mercer.
The ETSU defense had a total of five interceptions and 14 sacks. They also forced eight fumbles and had two blocked kicks.
ETSU linebacker Dylan Weigel is a finalist for FCS Freshman of the Year. This season, Weigel led the team with 127 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
As a whole, the ETSU defense gave up an average of 37.1 points per game this past season, while the Buccaneer offense scored an average of 16.36 points per game.
Both the offense and defense showed signs of improvement in the last few games of the season.
“Offensively we did what we needed to do in the last game of the year and showed major overall improvement this season,” said ETSU offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain. “We had to keep our guys feeling positive about themselves in order to finish the season [the way] that we did.”
O’Cain said the team needs to get better at certain positions and get a little more speed. He used the analogy that this year’s team was like a freshman football team playing a varsity schedule.
As far as the defense goes, defensive coordinator Billy Taylor said the way that Kentucky Wesleyan throws the ball, the team knew going into the game that it would be a big challenge, but the team got help from the fact that the ETSU offense often had the ball.
“I was really pleased with our defense in the first half, but in the second half they found a few of our weaknesses,” said Taylor. “One of our biggest challenges this season was being so young that when a team throws something at us we have not seen, we panic and have to go to the sidelines and regroup.”