The Bucs have an opportunity to make the FCS playoffs, but first they had to make the most of their opportunity against Mercer on the road. ETSU secured the 21-18 win to claim at least a share of the Southern Conference title. They can win the title outright with a home victory over Samford Nov. 17.
The Bucs came into the match-up against Mercer ranked No. 22 in the FCS.
Mercer got on the scoreboard first with a touchdown on a one-yard rushing touchdown.
The Bucs’ offense struggled in the first quarter trailing 7-0 at the end.
The Bucs were able to tie the game when Austin Herink (Cleveland,Tennessee) threw a six-yard to touchdown pass to Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Georgia) and following the extra-point conversion by JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tennessee).
With less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Mercer scored a field goal to take a 10-7 lead over the Bucs. But as time became scarce in the second quarter, Holmes scored a touchdown to give the Bucs a 14-10 lead.
The Bucs made their first real offensive mistake as they gave up a safety to bring their lead down to 14-12 with under 12 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Mercer kept their momentum going with under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, converting a 41-yard field goal to take a 15-14 lead over the Bucs.
“We need to learn to play every play like it’s the most important play of the game,” said head coach Randy Sanders.
The Bucs capped off the third quarter with Holmes scoring on a five-yard rushing touchdown and getting back on top.
The score gave the Bucs a 21-15 lead. Despite the Bucs’ offensive struggles, the defense was able to take care of business.
With under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Mercer scored the final points of the game converting on 24-yard field goal. The Bucs were able to hold on, winning 21-18 and securing a share of the SoCon crown, their first-ever.
“We set some [goals] that are pretty high,” said Sanders. “I think we set some that we felt were pretty attainable.”
ETSU has a bye next week and goes for the SoCon title outright against Samford at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium Nov. 17 at 1 p.m.