It started with a blocked punt for touchdown and the flood gates opened.
Near the midway point of the first quarter, ETSU linebacker Erek Campbell (Memphis, Tenn.) came through untouched to block a punt – and after wild series of events – newcomer Harold O’Neal (Baltimore, Md.) scooped it up and scored on a 15-yard return. That play ignited a run where ETSU scored 42 first-half points and the Buccaneers routed Robert Morris, 45-3, on Saturday afternoon inside Joe Walton Stadium.
All the phases were clicking on Saturday as Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.) eclipsed 3,000 career rushing yards thanks to tallying 170 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns, while the Buccaneer defense held Robert Morris to under 200 yards of total offense. The Bucs finished with a season-high 451 yards of total offense, including a season-best 297 rushing yards.
Saylors, who did all of his damage in the first half, moved into third-place all-time on the ETSU career rushing list with 3,018 yards, becoming the third Buccaneer of all-time to reach the 3,000-yard rushing mark. Saylors passed Brian Edwards for third all-time and joined former teammate Quay Holmes (4,264 yards) and Brandon Walker (4,095 yards) as the only players in program history to notch over 3,000 rushing yards.
ETSU avenged a 2015 loss to Robert Morris inside Joe Walton Stadium with its largest win since blanking Gardner-Webb 45-0 in 2018, as the Bucs improved to 2-2 on the season. Robert Morris, coming off its bye week, dipped to 0-3 on the young season.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
ETSU 7, Robert Morris 0: ETSU’s special teams provided the spark early as they registered the first score of the afternoon thanks to Erek Campbell blocking the punt, and after a game of hot potato, Harold O’Neal scooped up the loose ball and scored on a 15-yard return, giving the Bucs a 7-0 lead with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter.
ETSU 14, Robert Morris 0: The Buccaneer offense found pay dirt for the first time of the game when Saylors hit a hole for a 15-yard run, extending ETSU’s lead to 14-0. Jaylen Frierson (Franklin, Tenn.) helped set up the score when he hauled in his longest career reception – a 29-yard catch – and Saylors scored on the very next play, capping a 6-play, 71-yard scoring drive.
ETSU 21, Robert Morris 0: After the Buccaneer drive stayed alive thanks to an offside call by Robert Morris on a 4th-and-4 punt, ETSU made the Colonials pay as Saylors ripped off a 39-yard run three plays later, putting the Bucs up by 21 points early in the quarter.
ETSU 28, Robert Morris 0: Thanks to Sheldon Arnold, II (Loganville, Ga.) picking off his second career pass, ETSU capitalized on the short field and Saylors capped off a 14-yard drive with a two-yard run on third down, giving ETSU a comfortable lead with 8:41 left in the half.
ETSU 35, Robert Morris 0: Bryson Irby (Douglasville, Ga.) got in on the fun as he capped off a 6-play, 66-yard drive with a two-yard scamper through the left side, giving the Blue and Gold a 35-point cushion. The play was set up after a 44-yard run by Saylors, which pushed him over the 3,000-yard career rushing mark, becoming only the third ETSU running back to hit that milestone.
ETSU 42, Robert Morris 0: The Bucs aired it out right before halftime as Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) heaved one up to Einaj Carter (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) for a 56-yard score with five seconds remaining before intermission. For the half, ETSU totaled 317 yards of offense (206 rushing, 111 passing), while Saylors rushed for 170 yards and three scores in the opening 30 minutes.
ETSU 45, Robert Morris 0: Following a series of turnovers where Davion Hood (Kennesaw, Ga.) forced a fumble on a sack and then Brock Landis (Hoschton, Ga.) threw an interception near the goal line, Alijah Huzzie (Franklin, Ga.) came up with his second pick of the year, putting the Bucs’ offense back inside the red zone. After gaining six yards, Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) connected on a 23-yard field goal, making it 45-0 in the closing minutes of the quarter.
ETSU 45, Robert Morris 3: After keeping the Colonials off the board for the first three quarters, Robert Morris snapped ETSU’s shutout bid when Jayson Jenkins made a 39-yard field goal, finishing off a 9-play, 54-yard drive with 13:13 showing on the clock.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
For the game, ETSU outgained Robert Morris, 451 to 194, with the Bucs rushing for 297 yards and passing for 154 … The Colonials threw for 162 yards and rushed for 32 on 28 carries
ETSU set season highs in total offense, rushing yards and points scored
The Blue and Gold converted on all three of their red zone trips in the first half and finished the game going 4-of-6
The Bucs scored 42 first-half points, marking the most points scored in a half since posting 48 in the first half against Chattanooga back on Nov. 15, 2003 when ETSU won 68-7
Jacob Saylors recorded his ninth career 100-yard rushing game … His 170 rushing yards were the third-highest total of his career … Saylors also tied his career high with three rushing touchdowns as he did so last season at Western Carolina when he broke the single-game rushing record with 266 yards
Saylors, who averaged 9.4 yards per carry on Saturday, pushed his career rushing yards total to 3,018, placing him third all-time … The Jasper, Tenn. native also passed Brian Edwards for third all-time following Saturday’s performance
ETSU’s defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble) and converted them into 10 points
The Bucs also registered four sacks – two coming from Davion Hood – and added nine tackles for loss
Stephen Scott (Greensboro, Ga.) led the Bucs with seven tackles
Erek Campbell recorded his first collegiate blocked punt, while it was the first time an ETSU player accomplished the feat since Kaman Cooper did so against Mars Hill on Sept. 1, 2018
Tyler Keltner was a perfect 6-of-6 in extra-points on Saturday and made a 23-yard field goal, resulting in nine points … Keltner now sits 108-for-108 in career PATs, is 42-of-57 in made field goals and has totaled 234 points … Keltner is four points shy of passing Jerry Chapman (1995-98) for fourth all-time on the Buccaneer scoring list
Saturday marked the Bucs’ first non-conference road game since defeating Vanderbilt 23-3 last September 4 in Nashville
The Bucs step back into conference play next Saturday when ETSU hosts Chattanooga in The Rail Rivalry. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. inside Greene Stadium.