ETSU opens the season with monumental win
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The ETSU Football team treated Nashville, Tenn. to a show on Saturday night with a monumental win over Southeastern Conference foe, Vanderbilt. The Bucs toppled the Commodores in front of their home crowd by the final score of 23-3 to improve to 1-0 on the young season, while dropping Vanderbilt to 0-1 to begin the Clark Lea era.
The question of if playing in the spring would hinder or help the Buccaneers was answered at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Bucs were able to own the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to force their way to the 20-point victory.
The Buccaneer defense stymied the SEC offense, despite being undersized. It was ETSU who proved to be the most physical of the two teams. After yielding a field goal midway through the first quarter, the Bucs held the Commodores scoreless for the remainder of the game, only allowing 318 yards of total offense. More impressively, ETSU forced three turnovers in the final quarter. Sophomore linebacker Stephen Scott (Greensboro, N.C.) turned one of those turnovers into six points with a 27-yard fumble recovery for the touchdown, proving to be one of the biggest plays of the game. Senior Karon Delince (Phenix City, Ala.) and freshman Sheldon Arnold (Loganville, Ga.) added one interception a piece in the win.
The Buccaneer offense kept pace with Vanderbilt and had the defense on their toes in the final three quarters. ETSU finished the game with 314 yards of offense, including 253 yards in the second and third quarters combined. ETSU outgained Vanderbilt 253-90 during that stretch, while also building a 13-3 lead heading into the final quarter. Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) rose to the occasion, connecting on some pivotal passes to newcomer Malik Murray (Duluth, Ga.) and the experienced Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.). Riddell found Murray for a 5-yard touchdown to put ETSU on the board and build the confidence on the visiting sideline. As always, Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) lived up to his hype with 149 yards rushing on 23 carries.
With the clock winding down, the ETSU sideline and the Johnson City faithful that made the trip, erupted into a frenzy. The convincing win continued to put the FCS on the map as the Bucs stormed the field following their first Power-5 win since 1987.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Vanderbilt 3, ETSU 0: ETSU was able to blow up a big second-down play by Vanderbilt, eventually holding the Commodores to a 53-yard field goal for the game’s first strike.
ETSU 7, Vanderbilt 3: The Bucs scored their first touchdown of the new season when Tyler Riddell found newcomer Malik Murray for a 5-yard touchdown strike to give ETSU the advantage.
ETSU 10, Vanderbilt 3: ETSU added to its lead on the very next drive when Tyler Keltner connected for a 41-yard field goal to put the Blue & Gold ahead by one touchdown.
ETSU 13, Vanderbilt 3: The Bucs orchestrated a lengthy opening drive to start the second half as Keltner buried a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10, capping off a drive that lasted 6:18.
ETSU 20, Vanderbilt 3: The Bucs all but put the game away midway through the fourth quarter when Stephen Scott picked up a loose fumble and returned it 22 yards to the house for his first collegiate touchdown.
ETSU 23, Vanderbilt 3: Following a nullified touchdown due to an unsportsmanlike penalty, Keltner connected for his third field goal of the game with a 34-yard chip shot to extend the lead to 20.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
With the win, ETSU improves to 2-13 all-time against Power-5 opponents with their first victory since defeating N.C. State (29-14) in 1987.
Following the victory, ETSU improves to 42-42-3 in season openers in program history, including 5-2 since the restart of the program.
ETSU delivered Vanderbilt its first-ever loss to an FCS opponent – while also marking the first FCS opponent to take down an SEC squad since The Citadel bested South Carolina (23-22) on Nov. 21, 2015.
Quay Holmes finished the game with 149 yards rushing on 23 carries, now sitting only 71 yards shy of passing Brian Edwards for second all-time in program history.
Tyler Riddell finished the outing 13-of-22 for 135 yards and one touchdown – the 5-yard connection to Murray.
Murray burst onto the scene with three catches for 52 yards and one touchdown.
Will Huzzie led the Bucs in receptions with four for a team-high 62 yards.
The Bucs’ 20-point win is the largest of the six FCS wins over an FBS opponent to start this season.
ETSU sophomore kicker Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) was perfect on the night with three field goals, including a long of 41 – had his lone field goal attempt at Vanderbilt blocked in 2019.
The Bucs won the turnover battle, forcing three turnovers compared to zero ETSU blunders – this is the first game since Vanderbilt (2019) that the Bucs did not turn the ball over.
ETSU turned the three turnovers into 10 points on the evening.
Karon Delince and Stephen Scott led the team in total tackles with 10 apiece.
Colton Lakes (Loveland, Ohio) and Jay Harrison (Quincy, Fla.) each recorded one sack in the win for the Bucs.
The Commodores paid the Bucs $415k for the Saturday showdown.
NEXT GAME UP
ETSU will return home for its home opener on Sept. 11 as the Bucs play host to UVA Wise. Kickoff against the Cavaliers will be at 7:30 p.m. inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium. The season opener will also serve as Heroes Day.