The ETSU football team dropped a nail-biting overtime loss to Western Carolina, 23-20, in the Blue Ridge Border Battle in Cullowhee, N.C. on Saturday evening. With the loss, ETSU falls to 2-8 overall and 0-7 in league play, while the Catamounts improved to 3-7 (2-5 SoCon).
Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) turned in a career-high performance for the second consecutive week, rushing the ball 36 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Western Carolina outscored ETSU in the first half 10-3 as both offenses struggled to find any rhythm. The Bucs were the first to score in the second half, knotting the game at 10-10 late in the third quarter as Holmes found the endzone for the first of two touchdowns, giving momentum back to the Blue & Gold.
The Catamounts reclaimed the lead following a Tyrie Adams shuffle pass to Caleb Ferguson for a 22-yard strike, jumping ahead 17-10 with 8:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. Holmes struck again to keep the Bucs in the ball game, punching in a 5-yard touchdown run with just 1:31 remaining in regulation to even the score for the third time in the contest.
Western Carolina saw its chance at a game-winning field goal in regulation pass by as Julian Pletz sent a 31-yard attempt wide right as time expired, forcing overtime for the second consecutive meeting between the two squads.
ETSU’s offense stalled in the opening possession of overtime but was lifted by a Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) 42-yard field goal to give the Bucs their first lead in the ball game, 20-17.
However, Western Carolina used six plays to march 25 yards into the ETSU endzone as Nate Mullen punched the ball in from one yard away to give the home squad the 23-20 victory in overtime.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
WCU 3, ETSU 0: The Catamounts struck first in their opening drive after forcing the Bucs to punt on their opening possession. Western Carolina converted a 4th-and-3 on the drive to keep the possession alive, settling for a field goal four plays later as Julian Pletz knocked in a 39-yard field goal.
ETSU 3, WCU 3: Tyler Keltner evened the game at three apiece as the freshman kicker capped off a 12-play, 60-yard drive with a 22-yard field goal, his 12th of the season. Quay Holmes was responsible for 47 yards on the ground during the drive, setting up the Keltner attempt.
WCU 10, ETSU 3: The Catamounts reclaimed the lead after a 6-play, 73-yard drive that featured a 44-yard sprint to the house by Donovan Spencer to cap off the possession.
ETSU 10, WCU 10: ETSU scored its first touchdown of the game with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter as Quay Holmes punched the ball into the endzone from four yards out for his third touchdown of the season. Holmes rushed the ball for 48 yards on the drive, capping off a 9-play, 57-yard drive.
WCU 17, ETSU 10: Western Carolina jumped back on top with a 22-yard shovel pass from Tyrie Adams to Caleb Ferguson. Adams was responsible for 70 yards on the drive, including a 31-yard rush to put the Catamounts into ETSU territory.
ETSU 17, WCU 17: The Bucs responded with a 14-play, 64-yard drive to even the score as Holmes found the endzone yet again. The redshirt-sophomore back pounded the ball into the endzone from five yards out on 4th-and-1, stretching over the goal line for the equalizing touchdown.
ETSU 20, WCU 17: Keltner delivered the go-ahead 42-yard field goal in the first possession of overtime after the ETSU defense stalled on the first three plays. Keltner’s field goal gave the Bucs their first lead of the ball game.
WCU 23, ETSU 20: The Catamounts scored the final points of the game in their first possession in overtime as Nate Mullen scored from one-yard out to seal the win for the home squad.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
ETSU and Western Carolina found themselves playing an overtime game for the second consecutive season in the Blue Ridge Border Battle … The Bucs are now 3-2 in overtime games since the return of football, including 0-2 this season.
Quay Holmes had a game to remember, rushing the ball 36 times for 166 yards, both career highs for the redshirt-sophomore … Holmes’ 36 rushing attempts is tied for the fourth-most attempts in a single game in program history.
Holmes has now rushed for 878 yards on the season, 50 yards shy of his career-best mark of 928 set last season.
The Bucs were held to less than 100 yards passing for the first time this season and the first time since throwing for 69 yards at Tennessee on Sept. 8, 2018.
Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) saw significant minutes in today’s game, finishing 8-of-14 for 59 yards, including a 44-yard connection with Anthony Spagnoletti (Bealeton, Va.) for his first collegiate completion.
The ETSU defense yielded 400 yards of offense for the fifth time this season and first since allowing 428 to Chattanooga … The Bucs allowed 402 yards of offense to the Catamounts.
Tyler Keltner finished 2-of-3 in field goal attempts on the evening, moving his season total to 13-of-16 field goals made.
Artevius Smith (Birmingham, Ala.) tied his career high in tackles with 11, a mark achieved in the season opener at Appalachian State … Smith also forced his second fumble of the season, marking the sixth turnover recorded by Smith.
Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) finished the day with 10 tackles … Bockrath’s career high is 13 tackles, set against WCU in 2018.
The Bucs have now dropped six consecutive games and are now 1-6 this season in games decided by seven points or less … ETSU has dropped four consecutive one-possession games.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 16 when ETSU welcomes Mercer into town for the final Southern Conference showdown and final home game of the season at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium. Saturday will serve as both Senior Day and Heroes Day. Kickoff for the home finale is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on ESPN3.