ETSU combines for 31 points in fourth quarter and overtime to rally past Bulldogs
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Opportunity No. 4 was one for the ages.
In a game that featured four lead changes in the fourth quarter and a game-tying Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) field goal at the end of regulation, the ETSU football team kept its perfect record intact as Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) provided the game-winning touchdown in overtime, lifting the 15th-ranked Buccaneers to a thrilling 55-48 win at Samford on Saturday afternoon from Seibert Stadium.
With both teams combining for 1,259 yards of total offense, the Bucs finished with a season-high 531 yards, while red-shirt freshman quarterback Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) threw for a career-high 291 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing/one rushing). ETSU rushed for 240 yards – 168 coming from Holmes – marking a season-high for the red-shirt junior. Holmes, who also rushed for two touchdowns, registered the 14th 100-yard rushing of his career. The kickoff return game was also critical as Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.) posted a career-best 71-yard return and followed that up with a 50-yarder both of which set up fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Defensively, Donovan Manuel (Ellenwood, Ga.) was one of four Bucs to register double-digit tackles as his career-high 13th hit on the final play stopped running back Jay Stanton five yards short of the first down marker, sending the ETSU sideline into a frenzy.
The Bucs are off to their best start since 1999 as ETSU improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play, while Samford dipped to 2-2, 1-1. ETSU secured the first-ever win over Samford in Birmingham and it’s only the sixth time in program history the Blue and Gold have started the season with four straight wins.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- ETSU 7, Samford 0: After both teams fumbled on their opening series, the Bucs forced a Samford punt on its second possession, setting up the first scoring drive of the game. A 26-yard run by Malik Murray (Duluth, Ga.) on a reverse put the Bucs into the red zone – and two plays later – Jacob Saylors scored on a 12-yard toss play.
- ETSU 14, Samford 0: The Bucs had one of their shortest drives of the year thanks to a 98-yard interception return by Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.). Two plays later, Quay Holmes found the endzone on a 1-yard run, capping a two-play, two-yard drive that took only 33 seconds.
- ETSU 14, Samford 3: Samford found the scoreboard when its drive stalled inside the 15-yard line, resulting in a 31-yard field goal by Zach Williams with 3:26 remaining in the quarter.
- Second Quarter
- ETSU 17, Samford 3: The Bucs added to their lead on the second series of the quarter when ETSU drove 55 yards on 13 plays and finished with a 24-yard field goal by Tyler Keltner. Tyler Riddell completed his first four passes on the drive, hitting four different receivers before the drive stalled.
- ETSU 17, Samford 6: Samford scored 10 unanswered points to end the half, starting with a 32-yard yard make by Williams with 2:58 remaining in the half.
- ETSU 17, Samford 13: With the Bucs being held to 17 yards on five plays on the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs capped off their first touchdown drive of the afternoon to grab momentum going into the locker room. Samford got two chunk plays on the drive – a 24-yard pass and a 27-yard run by Liam Welch on 2nd-and-4 at the ETSU 32. Welch looked to have been sacked by Austin Lewis (Jonesborough, Tenn.) on the play, but he escaped to rip off the run, putting the Bulldogs at the Buccaneer 5-yard line. Samford eventually scored when Montrell Washington got behind the defense and Welch hit him open at the back of the end zone.
- ETSU 24, Samford 13: The Bucs quickly regained momentum as they took the opening kick of the second half and scored when Tyler Riddell hit Will Huzzie open for a 41-yard reception down the Samford sideline. The drive ate up over four minutes as the Bucs went 75 yards on seven plays.
- ETSU 24, Samford 19: Unfortunately, the Bulldogs followed suit and scored on their first series on a 6-yard run by Jay Stanton. Three of Samford’s first four plays went for first downs as the Bulldogs went 71 yards on eight plays in just a minute of a half. Samford went for two following the score, failing to convert after Austin Lewis laid a huge hit on Liam Welch to keep it a five-point game.
- Samford 26, ETSU 24: The Bulldogs grabbed their first lead of the game when Samford capitalized on a blown coverage by the Buccaneer defense. With no Buccaneers lined up on Jai’Rus Creamer, Liam Welch hit him with a quick strike and the Bulldog receiver sprinted into the end zone for a 26-yard score.
- Samford 33, ETSU 24: Samford made it 20 unanswered points as they scored for the fourth time in its last five possessions thanks to a 2-yard run by Jay Stanton at the 13:51 mark of the final quarter.
- Samford 33, ETSU 31: The Bucs needed a big play and Jacob Saylors delivered with his 71-yard kickoff return to set up ETSU’s offense at the Samford 28. Four plays and less than two minutes later, Tyler Riddell found Jawan Martin (Decatur, Tenn.) for a 2-yard score.
- ETSU 38, Samford 33: After forcing Samford to punt, the Bucs had to go 90 yards to regain the lead. It didn’t take long to go nearly the length of the field as Tyler Riddell threw a 65-yard touchdown to Isaiah Wilson (Norcross, Ga.) on a 3rd-and-8 play. The pass was Riddell’s longest of his career and it was also Wilson’s longest career reception.
- Samford 41, ETSU 38: The see-saw affair continued as the Bulldogs answered with a go-ahead scoring drive when Montrell Washington scored on a 5-yard reverse with Samford facing 4th-and-3 with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.
- ETSU 45, Samford 41: Another long kickoff return by Jacob Saylors set up the Bucs at midfield after a 50-yard return. Following a 41-yard by Quay Holmes, ETSU had 1st-and-goal at the Samford 9. Three plays later, Tyler Riddell called his own number as the pass play broke down and his 5-yard scamper put the Blue and Gold back up by four.
- Samford 48, ETSU 45: Again, Samford had an answer. With less than two minutes remaining, the Bulldogs used six plays to go 70 yards in under a minute and scored on a 19-yard touchdown reception to Washington. The key play of the drive came on a 3rd-and-20 at midfield when Welch rushed for 17 yards and picked up a personal foul penalty, moving the ball to the Buccaneer 19.
- Samford 48, ETSU 48: With 51 seconds on the clock, ETSU executed the final drive of regulation to perfection. The Bucs needed seven plays to march down to the Samford 10 to set up the Keltner field goal. Tyler Riddell found Nate Adkins for a 21-yard reception, while Quay Holmes’ 18-yard run on 3rd-and-4 moved it to the 10-yard line with two seconds remaining.
ETSU 55, Samford 48: After losing the coin toss, the Bucs’ offense took to the field first and needed only three plays to find the end zone capped off by Holmes’ 13-yard score. Samford’s offense then had its chance, but the ETSU defense rose to the challenge, keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone for the conference-opening win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- The Bucs are 4-0 for the first time since 1999 and just the sixth time in program history.
- The teams combined for 1,259 yards of total offense with ETSU compiling 531 yards (291 passing/240 rushing) … Samford finished with 728 yards on offense with Liam Welch passing for a SoCon-record 582 yards and a conference-record 655 yards of total offense.
- The game saw 185 combined plays – 111 by Samford and 74 by ETSU.
- ETSU’s 55 points were the most since the return in 2015 and the most since scoring 68 against Chattanooga on Nov. 15, 2003.
- The 103 combined points were the most in an ETSU game since Nov. 3, 1990 (110 points vs. Wofford).
- The Bucs scored on all five of their red zone opportunities – four touchdowns and one field goal.
- The 98-yard return by Tyree Robinson was the second-longest interception in program history, while it was tied for the fifth-longest play by Buccaneer … ETSU now has two interception returns of 95-plus yards this season as Karon Delince had a 95-yard return in the season-opening win at Vanderbilt.
- Saturday’s win was the Bucs’ first over Samford in Birmingham.
- ETSU combined for 31 points in the fourth quarter and overtime … The Bucs ran 25 plays for 254 yards from the fourth quarter on.
- Quay Holmes totaled his 14th 100-yard rushing game as his 168 yards were the third-most of his career … Holmes moved his career rushing total to 3,247 … Holmes is now 849 yards shy of breaking Brandon Walker’s all-time program record of 4,095 yards.
- Jacob Saylors finished with 193 all-purpose yards (157 kickoff return and 36 rushing).
- Will Huzzie tied a career-high with eight receptions, while he went over 100 yards receiving for the second time in his career (113 yards).
- Tyler Riddell’s three passing touchdowns marked a new career-high.
- Four Bucs registered double-digit tackles – Alijah Huzzie and Jared Folks both led the way with 14, marking new career highs for both … Donovan Manuel added 13 and Blake Bockrath – who missed the last two games – finished with 10.
- As a team, ETSU recorded 109 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, and generated three turnovers.
- The Bucs’ 109 tackles were the most since finishing with 110 against The Citadel back on Sept. 16, 2017.
NEXT GAME UP
ETSU returns home for its SoCon home opener next Saturday when the Bucs host Wofford at 3:30 p.m. inside Greene Stadium.