The Bucs put their perfect conference record on the line against 4-0 Chattanooga at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium Saturday. ETSU did not disappoint the 9,277 in attendance, winning a 17-14 thriller.
Early in the week, both schools announced that the teams would be competing for a rivalry trophy named “The Rail,” weighing 108 pounds to represent the halfway point between the schools. The Bucs were not the top pick going into the game as the Mocs were a 14.5-point favorite.
With the Mocs receiving the ball first, the Bucs defense got a chance to face the Mocs who came into the game with a hot offensive passing game. Led by Nick Tiano (Chattanooga, Tennessee) the Mocs offense stalled its first two drives with the Bucs secondary playing its best football.
On their second offensive drive, the Bucs were able to score in a hurry. The Bucs scored the first touchdown of the game when quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tennessee) shovel passed to Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Georgia) for a 55-yard touchdown pass.
“I feel like guys are learning how to win,” said head coach Randy Sanders. “We are not a finished product; we have to be able to finish games.”
Eight minutes remaining in the first quarter the Bucs defense forced a fumble recovered by Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Georgia) to set the Bucs inside the Mocs 10-yard line. Holmes scored his second touchdown of the game on a four-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Bucs an early 14-point lead.
At the end of the first, the Bucs had a controlling 14-0 lead with the ball at the 11-yard line after a huge 24-yard run to give the Bucs offense an opportunity to go up three scores early. Offensively, the Bucs outgained the Mocs by 119 yards with the Bucs defense only allowing 16 yards in the first quarter.
The Mocs made a defensive stand, not allowing the Bucs to score a touchdown to open the second quarter and a missed field goal kept the Bucs lead at 14 points.
Nasir Player (Columbia, South Carolina) made a strip sack against Mocs quarterback Tiano. The fumble recovery gave the Bucs the ball at their 43-yard line.
“Coaches made it a point to tell us he (Tiano) had only been sacked twice in his last four games,” said Player. “We just made it a point to get after him.”
During the drive following a drop, Herink was solid, making all the right reads and settling for his check down when needed. The Bucs settled for a 33-yard field goal by JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tennessee) to lead 17-0.
The Bucs defense was dominant in the first half, only allowing 84-yards and forcing two fumbles.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Bucs led 17-0 and kept the pressure coming on defense leaving their corners on one on one coverage. The Mocs cut into the Bucs lead after Tiano found his receiver wide open in the back of the end zone to cut the lead to 10.
The Mocs kept the momentum scoring a three-yard touchdown run with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Mocs had a last desperation possession but were unable to capitalize before time ran out.
ETSU improves to 4-1 and 3-0 to move into first place in the SoCon. The Bucs have homecoming this week against non-conference foe Gardner-Webb. Game time is 3:30 p.m. Saturday.