ETSU drops season opener at Jacksonville State

Published 9:51 am Monday, September 4, 2023

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JACKSONVILLE, Ala.  – The Buccaneers struck first, but Jacksonville State then responded.
Following a field goal by Ewan Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) early in the first quarter, the Gamecocks rattled off 49 unanswered points as ETSU football dropped its season opener at Jacksonville State 49-3 on Saturday afternoon at Burgess-Snow Field.
Jacksonville State, playing its second game as a Football Bowl Subdivision member, outgained the Bucs by 160 yards, 364 to 204, and capitalized on four ETSU turnovers. The Gamecocks cashed those in for 28 points. Jacksonville State scored on its first three possessions and four of its first five to start the second half.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) made the start but did not play in the second half. Riddell went 10-of-17 for 117 yards and one interception. Baron May (New Philadelphia, Ohio) entered late in the second quarter and played the entire second half, turning the ball over three times (two fumbles and one interception). Redshirt freshman wide receiver Xavier Gaillardetz (Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada) finished with three catches for 69 yards in his first collegiate game.
Defensively, Chris Hope (Madison, Ala.) set a career-high with 12 tackles (11 solo), while Missouri State transfer linebacker Jordan Hoskins (Detroit, Mich.) added 11 hits and defensive lineman Deven Brantley (Riverdale, Ga.) registered a career-high nine tackles.
First Quarter
ETSU 3, Jacksonville State 0: ETSU struck first as Johnson made a 27-yard field goal on his first collegiate attempt, giving the Bucs the early lead with 9:18 remaining in the quarter. Gaillardetz hauled in a 38-yard catch on the first play of the drive putting the Bucs at the JSU 23-yard line.
Jacksonville State 7, ETSU 3: The Gamecocks responded with the first touchdown of the contest when Logan Smothers found Sterling Galban for a 23-yard score, capping a six-play, 61-yard drive in just over two minutes.
Jacksonville State 14, ETSU 3: Following a Riddell interception, the Gamecocks took advantage of the short field and scored two plays later on a 10-yard run by Ron Wiggins to make it a 14-3 score with 1:49 left in the opening quarter.
Second Quarter
Jacksonville State 21, ETSU 3: Jacksonville State capitalized on a questionable roughing the passer penalty on 3rd and 16 from its own 33 as the Gamecocks would later score on a two-yard quarterback keeper en route to capping a nine-play, 61-yard drive with 4:06 left in the half.
Third Quarter
Jacksonville State 28, ETSU 3: Jacksonville State came out of the locker room and scored on its opening drive of the second half when Malik Jackson ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run, finishing a five-play, 75-yard drive in under a minute and a half.
Jacksonville State 35, ETSU 3: The Gamecocks made it a second straight scoring drive to start the third quarter as they forced a May fumble and went 23 yards in three plays. Logan Smothers found pay dirt on a three-yard run with 11:54 left in the quarter.
Jacksonville State 42, ETSU 3: The miscues by the Buccaneer offense continued as May fumbled yet again on ETSU’s next possession and Jacksonville State made the Blue & Gold pay. The Gamecocks used the short field to their advantage – going 32 yards – as J’Wan Evans found the end zone from two yards out to extend the lead.
Fourth Quarter
Jacksonville State 49, ETSU 3: Another Buccaneer turnover led to a Jacksonville State scoring drive as May was picked off and the Gamecocks marched 24 yards on six plays, resulting in another two-yard run by Evans.
  • Saturday marked the 89th season opener for the Bucs … ETSU moved to 44-42-3 all-time in season openers
  • The three points scored by the Bucs marked their fewest in a season opener since 2002 when ETSU was shutout 34-0 at No. 25 NC State
  • Jacksonville State finished with 364 yards of total offense (237 rushing/127 passing), while ETSU totaled 204 yards (117 passing/87 rushing)
  • The second half was all Jacksonville State as they outscored ETSU, 28-0, while limiting the Blue & Gold to 40 yards of total offense – all coming on the ground … The Bucs only attempted one pass in the second half, which was intercepted
  • In the first quarter, ETSU outgained the Gamecocks 122-87 and averaged 6.1 yards per play; however, the Bucs were held to 82 yards the rest of the game (2.3 yards per play)
  • The average starting field position for Jacksonville State was its own 42-yard line, while ETSU’s was its own 22-yard line
  • The Bucs were penalized nine times for 87 yards … Three of those penalties were 15-yard calls
  • ETSU was 1-of-11 on third down, compared to JSU going 7-of-13
  • JSU ran 19 more plans than the Blue & Gold, 75 to 56
  • Freshman defensive back Mike Jenkins Jr. (Summerville, S.C.) got the start in his collegiate debut, while fellow true freshman also played snaps – linebacker Ray Coney (Fairfield, Ohio), linebacker Dre Delinois (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and defensive lineman Brenden LeBlanc (Marrero, La.)
  • Coney finished with four tackles and a half sack, Jenkins added three tackles and LeBlanc got in for two hits
  • In addition, Ewan Johnson, Xavier Gaillardetz, Jaylen George (Suwanee, Ga.), Tyree Rainey (Donalsonville, Ga.) and Josh Kimmons (Kennesaw, Ga.) all made their collegiate debuts on Saturday
ETSU heads back to Johnson City to take on Carson-Newman in its home opener next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. inside Greene Stadium.

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