BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WJHL) – ETSU stuck with Samford in the first half of the SoCon season-opener, but was overrun by the Bulldogs in the final two quarters, as they drop a 42-28 decision on Saturday afternoon.

Starting quarterback Tyler Riddell returned for the Bucs in the loss. He completed 9-of-23 passes for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Tampa, Florida native also picked up 24 yards with his legs.

The Riddell turnover came on the opening possession, which led to a Jay Stanton 28-yard touchdown run, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0 early on.

However, a Sheldon Arnold II interception at the start of the second quarter setup Bryson Irby for a two-yard score, evening the game at 7-7. The teams traded touchdowns for the remainder of the half.

Riddell lofted a perfect ball to Xavier Gaillardetz with just 33 ticks left in the second quarter, sending the squads into the locker room locked at 21-21.

In the second half, however, reigning SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Hiers, took control for the home team. The quarterback rushed for a score in the third and fourth quarters to help seal the deal.

A 70-yard strike from Irby in the fourth quarter proved to be the final touchdown of the day in the 14-point defeat.

Irby carried the ball 16 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns, while Zach Borisch chipped in 50 more yards on six carries.

Will Huzzie was the Blue and Gold’s volume receiver with three catches for 32 yards.

The ETSU defense had its moments, registering two sacks and four tackles for loss. Arnold II had a monster day, coming up with two interceptions, a fumble recovery and seven total tackles.

But, the Bucs were unable to slow down Hiers, who completed 42-of-50 passes for 399 yards. He added three total touchdowns to his stat line, as well.

ETSU (1-3) will welcome a homecoming crowd next on Saturday, as they tangle with Mercer at 3:30 p.m. ET.