ETSU Buccaneers compete inside Citizens Bank Stadium
Published 9:47 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016
Mother nature must be a Bucs fan or she took heed to the fact that ETSU was playing at the home of the Cyclones, as the sun came out just before the first play of ETSU’s scrimmage at Citizen’s Bank Stadium on Thursday night.
The rays peeked through the storm just in time to shine on a pregame conversation between football minds Dave Rider, Shawn Witten and ETSU coach Carl Torbush, which reiterated just how well the Buccaneer coach knows the area.
“I knew coach Rider before I knew Jason and Shawn (Witten) because I recruited this school for many, many years — from really the time I was at North Carolina and on, ” Torbush said. “He (Rider) is a great coach and has developed a tremendous legacy here and obviously Shawn continued that. There are a lot of great football players that have come from Elizabethton, Tennessee.”
However, it was tremendous football that was shown by the Bucs on Thursday night as the offense accounted for six touchdowns and 556 yards in 72 plays.
“I thought our offense came out really strong and made a lot of big plays,” Torbush said.
The coach mentioned that he was impressed with what the quarterbacks did, especially former Sullivan South standout Dylan Wieger.
“You put the ball live and he is able to do some things with his feet, as well as throwing the ball, and I think that makes him a better football player,” he said.
Statistically, though, it was returning quarterbacks Nick Sexton who accounted for 10-of-13 passing for 145 yards and a touchdown that impressed. The other returning starter Austin Herink completed 9-of-13 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously Austin and Nick are much, much improved from the fall, they made a lot of good plays,” Torbush said.
The coach was also impressed with the running game as the Bucs rushed for 232 yards in the contest. They were led on the ground by Jajuan Lankford, who carried the ball seven times for 69 yards. Tony Drew also contributed a solid rushing performances with four carries 42 yards and two touchdowns, while Corey Colder tallied 32 yards on four carries and a score.
Drew said that having so many options in the backfield is a weapon that the Bucs will be able to use to their advantage.
“We have a lot of good guys in the backfield, and I just love working with them everyday,” Drew said. “They are good guys, and I am just glad to be competing with them. We all have different styles of running, we are all back there to do something different.”
The standout wide receiver for the Bucs was Old Dominion transfer Vincent Lowe, who had four receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Two other impact transfers are Citadel transfer and running back Matt Thompson and Trinity Valley Community College transfer and defensive back Paul Hunter.
Thompson only rushed the ball three times for six yards, but he hauled in a 64-yard screen pass for a touchdown. Thompson, the all-time leading rusher at Morristown East High School, said it was nice to be back in the mountains of East Tennessee.
“It feels good to have my family and friends closer to me,” Thompson said. “And coach has given me an opportunity to contribute to the team, so it feels good to be back home.”
The lone bad spot of the night was when defensive lineman Devon Johnson was taken off the field on a stretcher. The injury was out of the sight of the coaching staff, but Torbush said that seeing one of his players carted of the field is hard to watch.
“Anytime that they have to cart someone off, it’s a scary situation,” he said. “So all of us need to keep him in our prayers right now. He is a great young man, so I hate that for him, not only football wise, but health wise. Hopefully, he’ll be okay.”