JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – There were not as many smiles to go around when the Bucs met with reporters on Monday afternoon. The Blue and Gold suffered a 34-3 Rail Rivalry setback on Saturday, their fourth-straight defeat to the SoCon foe.
“We left quite a few plays out there,” head coach George Quarles said. “It was a really good defense. Their front four – they’re stout.”
ETSU managed just 120 yards of offense, as redshirt-freshman quarterback William Riddle completed 8-of-25 passes for 46 yards and an interception in defeat. The Bucs dynamic rushing attack also accounted for only 74 yards in the Scenic City.
Injuries continue to eat away at the Bucs’ depth chart. Senior linebacker Stephen Scott missed Saturday’s contest with an apparent concussion, while star wideout Will Huzzie left the game early with a knee injury.
“Hopefully Stephen will be good to go, I hope,” Quarles said about this Saturday’s tilt with No. 3 Furman. “Will [Huzzie] has an MRI schedule for today, so just waiting on that.”
Getting guys back for a crucial conference clash is the priority, but Quarles admitted practices are becoming difficult to run.
“Our punter [Nate Brackett] is the scout team quarterback right now,” Quarles admitted. “One of our long snappers got scout team player of the week, Cannon Lusby – as a receiver.”
“Nobody’s complaining,” Quarles continued. “The guys are still working. But I mean, it’s you kind of just see, if it wasn’t so painful, you’d laugh, you know, just because it’s just something that none of us have really been through where you just get this thin.”
Chris Hope and Tommy Winton III never like to see their injured teammates miss time, but neither Saturday’s loss, nor the injury list is dampening their resolve.
“We’re worried about just winning games,” Hope, the junior defensive back, said. “Each week is a new game and it’s a new scenario. So I don’t think we see very much pressure at all. We just see it as another game.”
“Coach mentioned coming into every week trying to improve on what we did the last week,” redshirt-freshman wide receiver, Winton III, said. “We understand we’ve made a lot of mistakes and they’re correctable. So each and every week we’re trying to go, like you said, 1-0.”
This Saturday’s meeting with No. 3 Furman will be a Homecoming for the Paladins – and a homecoming for Quarles, as well. The ETSU head coach played for Furman on the 1988 FCS National Championship squad and coached on the staff for five seasons prior to his time in Johnson City.
“Kinda odd, I guess,” he said. “Going there, homecoming – that sort of thing. But, other than that it’s just a football game that we’d love to play well in and compete.”
Quarles was roommates with current Furman head coach, Clay Hendrix, back in his college days. The two have kept in touch over the years, and Quarles has great respect for him. But, pulling off the upset on Saturday would feel pretty sweet.
“That would be pretty special,” he said. “It would be the highlight of the season, I’m sure, to this point.”
Kickoff from Greenville is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday.