In a game that was delayed a total of 132 minutes and included one overtime, the fans had to wait until 1:08 a.m. to find out the result in the Buccaneers 2019 Southern Conference opener. Unfortunately, the fans witnessed the first loss at Greene Stadium on the season as the Bucs dropped a nail-biting 31-24 contest to conference foe, VMI. With the loss, ETSU falls to 1-2 (0-1 SoCon) on the season, while the Keydets improve to 2-1 (1-0 SoCon).
Despite the loss, the Bucs outgained the Keydets 460-409, including 207-98 on the ground. ETSU also threw the ball for 253 yards, while VMI hurled the pigskin for 311 yards in the game.
Both offenses stalled in the first half, taking a 7-7 tie into the locker room following a 65-minute delay with five minutes to play in the second quarter. The Bucs held the narrow 7-0 advantage going into the delay before the Keydets scored just minutes in the return to the field.
VMI scored the only touchdown of the third quarter to take the 14-7 lead following Alex Ramsey’s three-yard touchdown run. The Bucs pulled within 14-10 following a Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) 37-yard field goal.
ETSU outscored the Keydets 14-10 in the final quarter of regulation, setting up for the nail-biting finish. The two touchdown drives by the Bucs in the closing quarter came via the 20-yard reception by Anthony Spagnoletti (Bealeton, Va.) and a 61-yard touchdown run from Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.). The Keydets forced overtime with a 30-yard chip shot with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The Keydets would go on to score the lone touchdown in extra time, a 21-yard pass from Reece Udinski to Javeon Lara. The Bucs failed to convert a second fourth-down attempt in their offensive possession.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
ETSU 7, VMI 0: After Grant Clemmons’ 46-yard field goal attempt clanked off the right upright, the Buccaneers quickly moved down field as Trey Mitchell (Knoxville, Tenn.) found Keith Coffee (Miami, Fla.) wide open for a 57-yard touchdown for the first score of the game. ETSU went 71 yards on two plays that covered 47 seconds and led 7-0 following the extra-point by Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.).
ETSU 7, VMI 7:Following the lengthy weather delay, VMI went 65 yards on 11 plays and tied the game at 7-7 when Reece Udinksi found Rohan Martin for a 13-yard touchdown reception with 1:41 remaining in the quarter.
VMI 14, ETSU 7:The Keydets took their first possession of the second half 59 yards in just under two minutes and scored on a three-yard run by Alex Ramsey. After having a punt return wiped off the board on an illegal block in the back call, VMI picked up 15 yards on its first play when ETSU defensive back Karon Delince (Phenix City, Ala.) was flagged for a pass interference call. From there, the Keydets used some trickery as a double pass from Leroy Thomas to Udinski resulted in a gain of 30 yards, and three plays later the visitors from Lexington, Va. found the end zone to take their first lead of the night.
VMI 14, ETSU 10:ETSU answered with a scoring drive of its own Keltner connected on a 37-yard field goal that covered 51 yards on 12 plays in over five minutes to make it a four-point game with 6:14 remaining in the quarter.
ETSU 17, VMI 14: After having its previous offensive series ruined by a fumble, the Bucs responded with an 89-yard drive to regain the lead when Mitchell hit Spagnoletti in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard score with 10:29 remaining in the contest. The drive featured four plays of over 15 yards as Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.) hauled in a 22-yard reception, Saylors featured a 16-yard run and Isaiah Wilson (Duluth, Ga.) had a 16-yard reception.
VMI 21, ETSU 17: The see-saw game continued as the Keydets used an 11-play, 75-yard drive to move back ahead following a one-yard touchdown run by Alex Ramsey. VMI converted two third-down plays on the drive and also picked up 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike penalty call by the Bucs.
ETSU 24, VMI 21: The fireworks continued as Saylors sprinted 61 yards to the end zone to complete a three-play, 75-yard drive in 48 seconds, resulting in the fourth lead change of the night.
ETSU 24, VMI 24: After the Bucs missed a chance to increase their lead to six on a wide left kick from Keltner, the Keydets made the Blue and Gold pay. With 2:27 remaining, VMI took the ball 64 yards on 11 plays and tied the game up on a 30-yard field goal from Grant Clemons with 10 seconds showing on the clock.
VMI 31, ETSU 24: VMI’s offense had the first chance in overtime and took full use of the possession as they scored on three plays as Udinski found Javeon Lara for a 21-yard score on 3rd-and-6.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The game featured two delays that totaled two hours and 25 minutes … The first delay was one hour and twenty minutes due to a lightning delay in the area pregame … The second delay stopped play with 5:11 remaining in the second quarter and lasted 65 minutes.
Both teams generated over 400 yards of offense as the Bucs finished with 460 yards (207 rushing/253 passing), while VMI ended with 409 yards (98 rushing/311 passing).
The Buccaneer defense finished with 76 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks … Nasir Player (Columbia, S.C.) finished with five tackles and 1.5 sacks, while Quinn Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio)registered his first collegiate sack … Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the Bucs with nine tackles and three pass breakups.
With the loss, ETSU moved to 15-10 all-time against VMI, while it marked the 13th time both teams met in a SoCon opener (Bucs are now 9-4 in those contests).
The attendance of 9,150 marked the third-highest total in Greene Stadium history … ETSU has now posted sellouts in 10 of its 14 games inside the stadium.
Saylors led the Bucs with 156 all-purpose yards as he registered his third career 100-yard rushing game with a game-high 112 yards on nine carries (12.4 yards per carry) … Saylors also added two receptions for 15 yards and one kickoff return for 29 yards … Saylors’ 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter tied his longest rush of his career as he also accomplished the feat last weekend versus Shorter.
Seven different players recorded at least one reception with freshman Isaiah Wilson and Anthony Spagnoletti leading the team with four receptions.
Keith Coffee’s 57-yard touchdown reception was the third-longest scoring pass play since the Buccaneer program returned in 2015 … It also marked his longest collegiate reception and first touchdown reception since the 2016 win over Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway … Coffee also finished with a career-high 72 receiving yards.
ETSU was held to 1-of-12 on third down, compared to VMI finishing 8-of-21 on third down chances and 2-of-4 on fourth down.
In the first quarter, ETSU’s defense held VMI to 19 yards (11 passing/eight rushing) on its first 15 plays … The Bucs had two sacks (negative-10 yards) and three tackles for loss (negative-14 yards) in the opening 15 minutes … Overall, VMI was held to 61 yards on its first 31 plays, but then totaled 190 yards on its next 28 plays to go ahead 14-10 midway through the third quarter … After being held to 22 yards on its next nine plays to end the third quarter, the Keydets totaled 167 yards on their final 29 plays of the game
On the Bucs’ four scoring drives, they registered 287 yards on 23 plays; however, on their remaining 47 plays, ETSU totaled 170 yards.
The Blue and Gold were penalized nine times for 105 yards, marking the second straight game with over 100 yards of penalty yards.
ETSU’s captains were running back Quay Holmes, defensive back Tyree Robinson and defensive end Blake Bockrath.
NEXT GAME UP
ETSU will return to action when the Bucs welcome Austin Peay into William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21. Kickoff is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.