Overcoming three turnovers and its share of adversity throughout the night, the ETSU football team gave first-year head coach Randy Sanders a victory in his debut, as the Buccaneers scored 28 unanswered points Saturday night to drop Mars Hill 28-7 inside a sold-out Williams B. Greene Jr. Stadium.
With the win, the Bucs will take a 1-0 record into its first-ever meeting with in-state Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee. Kickoff for that matchup with the Volunteers is set for 4 p.m. next Saturday and the game will air nationally on the SEC Network.
Meanwhile, the Lions dropped to 0-1 on the young season.
For the Bucs, freshmen tailbacks Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Jacob Saylors (Jasper) combined for 188 yards rushing and junior quarterback Logan Marchi (Winsted, Conn.) went 17-of-29 through the air for 273 yards and three passing touchdowns.
ETSU outgained the Lions 511 to 263 on the night, as the Bucs defensive unit forced a fumble and sacked Mars Hill five times in the game.
Senior linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) and junior defensive back Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the Bucs with 10 tackles apiece.
The game got off to a slow start for the Bucs, who found themselves trailing 7-0 with just over a minute left in the first half. However, at that point the momentum in the contest turned as ETSU needed just four plays to cover 69 yards and score for the first time in the game. That positive energy carried over to the second half, where the Bucs outscored the Lions 21-0.
With the win, ETSU has collected victories in three of four openers since returning to the gridiron in 2015.