When the tables turn.
Last season the ETSU football team ended with nine losses. Of those nine, five were games in which they were within single digits, if not tied before halftime, but could not finish the game.
However, the team’s victory over the Western Carolina Catamounts on Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway delivered a strong message: They are not the same team.
“I think it sent out a good message to the Southern Conference,” said Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) who led the team in tackles. “The Bucs were ’30 point underdogs,’ but now have been able to get the win in the past two games. At Kennesaw we got the win in a hostile environment and here in a big venue it shows how much we’ve improved since last year. I don’t think teams anymore after seeing us start 2-0 will take us lightly. Seeing we got our first SoCon win and seeing we’re different and improved.”
The crowd thrived off of the energy as well. 13,863 fans came pouring into the venue on Saturday and set a ETSU program-record. This was also the first Southern Conference win for the Bucs since 2003.
This win makes it their second win in a row this season and also the second win thus far where they trailed in the first half and fought back to win.
In the first quarter of the game, ETSU failed to put the ball in the air, only completing 29 yards receiving compared to the Catamounts 56. It only took WCU running back Detrez Newsome (Raeford, N.C.) two attempts before getting in the end zone for a touchdown with 5:42 remaining. The field goal attempt was good and the WCU ended the quarter 7-0.
The second quarter was big for the Bucs.
After two touchdowns by WCU’s Newsome, the Bucs were down 21-3, their largest deficit of the game.
“Austin kept saying ‘we’re good, we’re good, we’re good,’ we’ve been here before, we’re good’ and that carried on and then everyone was saying it,” said Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.). “It comes from the top to the bottom. Everyone was saying we were good, and honestly, I don’t feel like when were down that anybody got the sense that we couldn’t win this game, and I think that is what the difference was.”
With about two minutes remaining in the game, Daren Ardis (Bradenton, Fla.) forced a fumble on a 43-yard pass from Tyrie Adams to Spearman Robinson. The fumble was recovered by ETSU’s Kevin Ferguson (Cincinnati, Ohio).
Following the recovery, Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) led the offense down the field for 71 yards and found Lowe for a two-yard pass. Lowe dived in the end zone and the Bucs ended the first half behind 21-10.
The Bucs brought this energy into the second half and did not let go of it.
The Bucs scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. A 12-yard pass from Herink to freshman Keith Coffee and another pass into the end zone to Matt Thompson (Morristown, Tenn.) for two yards giving the Bucs their first lead of the game, leading 24-21.
Each team scored a field goal and a touchdown in the final quarter, but because the Catamounts failed to stop the Bucs, they were defeated 34-31 and the Bucs became the Food City Bucs at Bristol Motor Speedway Champions.
“We have a long way to go and we have to get better every week” Herink said. “We will enjoy this one tonight, but starting tomorrow we have to start focusing on our next opponent and continue to get better because we are not through.”
The Bucs will be back on the field next week in Spartanburg, S.C. against Wofford. The game is set for 1:30 p.m.