JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 29, 2018)– The Rail will stay in Johnson City.
Putting together a decisive first-half performance that saw the ETSU football team force three turnovers and take a 17-0 lead into the halftime locker room, the Buccaneers ultimately held off a fourth-quarter rally by No. 20-ranked Chattanooga to drop their longtime rival 17-14 Saturday evening inside Greene Stadium. With the win, the Bucs will retain the new Rail rivalry trophy which was introduced earlier this week and will go to the winner of the contest each year.
More importantly, in a battle of teams tied atop the Southern Conference standings, the Bucs now move to 4-1, 3-0 in league play, while the Mocs dropped to 4-1, 2-1. A crowd of 9,277 – the second largest in Greene Stadium history – looked on as ETSU defeated the Mocs for the first time since rejoining the SoCon back in 2015. The team is also off to its best overall start since the 1999 season at 4-1, and it is the first time since 1996 that the Bucs have been 3-0 in SoCon play.
That 1996 team advanced to the national playoffs.
The win did not come easy despite an impressive first half performance by the Bucs. Chattanooga scored touchdowns twice in the fourth quarter and had a final possession with 1:27 left in regulation, but were facing a daunting task as the ball sat at their own 5-yard line following a clutch punt by ETSU’s Marion Watson(Waxhaw, N.C.). ETSU’s defense, which had held a strong Mocs’ offense in check for three quarters and ended the night relinquishing just 321 yards to a highly-touted UTC offense, made the final decisive stand by stopping the Mocs at midfield as time expired.
Domenique Williams (Charlotte, N.C.) led the way with a career-high 11 tackles on the night, while fellow defensive back Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) added 10. The Bucs collected five sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss on the night, led by 2.5 from junior defensive end Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.). In addition, sophomore safety Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.) also had a great evening with seven tackles and three pass breakups in critical moments.
Offensively, senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland), who came off the bench last week to rally the Bucs past Furman, got the start after much speculation throughout the week concerning that specific position. He finished with 171 yards through the air and a touchdown.
HOW THEY SCORED:
ETSU 7, Chattanooga 0: After the Bucs’ defense produced back-to-back stops and set the ETSU offense up with quality field possession near midfield on its second drive of the game,Herink connected with Holmes on an electric 54-yard screen pass that resulted in the first score of the contest. The extra point from JJ Jerman(Seymour) was good as the Bucs led 7-0 following a successful three-play, 65-yard drive.
ETSU 14, Chattanooga 0: Following a fumble by Lameric Tucker on a backward pass from Nick Tiano at the Mocs own 10-yard line, the Bucs needed just two plays to score on a four-yard run by Quay Holmes(Powder Springs, Ga.). With 6:43 left in the first quarter, Jerman’s extra point was good and the Bucs led by 14.
ETSU 17, Chattanooga 0: The defense stepped up again to give the Bucs some momentum. After Player sacked Tiano and forced a fumble, defensive tackle Tremond Ferrell(Washington, Ga.) recovered the loose ball to stop the Mocs’ best drive of the game to that point. With the ball at the ETSU 43-yard line, Herink and the Bucs’ offense went on an 11-play, 41-yard drive that culminated in a 33-yard field goal by Jerman to give the Bucs a 17-point lead with 3:58 left in the half.
ETSU 17, Chattanooga 7: The Mocs finally broke through against the ETSU defense early in the fourth quarter. Aided by a 31-yard pass from Tiano to wide receiver Joseph Parker that converted a long third down to the Bucs’ 2-yard line, Tiano needed three more plays to find Bryce Nunnelly on a three-yard scoring pass. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Mocs had cut the ETSU lead to 10.
ETSU 17, Chattanooga 14: Chattanooga’s rally continued thanks to an impressive 14-play, 73-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion run. The drive ultimately resulted in a three-yard scoring run by tailback Tyrell Price with 4:27 left in regulation and the ETSU advantage was down to a field goal.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
The series between the Bucs and Mocs now stands at 22-19-1 in favor of the Mocs, with the Bucs leading 11-8-1 in games played at Johnson City. With his two extra points on Saturday night, Jerman moved into second place on the team’s all-time list with 73, passing Mike Shoun (1987-89). In addition, Jerman’s second quarter field goal now gives him a school record 40 for his career.
Following his nine-tackle performance on Saturday night, senior linebacker Dylan Weigel(Pickerington, Ohio) moved his career total to 364 tackles, which leads all active FCS players. Weigel ranks fourth all-time in program history in total tackles and needs 89 total tackles to break Mario Hankerson record of 452, which was set from 1994-97 … Weigel is 12 tackles shy of passing Maurice Kelly (1990-93) for third all-time.
The Bucs have forced turnovers in 14 of their last 20 games … ETSU is now 8-3 when forcing at least two turnovers since the start of the 2015 season. ETSU improved to 7-2 all-time in Greene Stadium, while the Bucs have recorded sellout crowds in six of those nine games. Chattanooga quarterback was only sacked twice prior to tonight’s contest, while he wasn’t sacked in his last three games … The Bucs sacked him five times on Saturday night. The Bucs held Chattanooga to negative-15 rushing yards in the first half, while holding the Mocs to 2.2 yards in the first 30 minutes of the contest …
Overall, ETSU held UTC to 74 total yards in the first half.
ETSU’s average starting field position was its own 38 yard line, while the Mocs’ average starting field position was their own 23 … UTC won the time of possession 33:42-26:18; however, the Mocs didn’t score on their first 11 series of the game, which included six three-and-outs.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will remain at home for the third game in their current three-game home stand when they host non-conference foe Gardner-Webb for the annual Homecoming game 3:30 p.m. next Saturday inside Greene Stadium.
For more on ETSU football throughout the 2018 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football link.