Missed opportunities and penalties plagued the ETSU football team in Saturday’s Southern Conference opener, as the eighth-ranked Buccaneers suffered a 20-17 setback to The Citadel on Colby Kinter’s walk-off 39-yard field inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.
The Bucs, who went 2-for-4 in red zone chances, had their first possession stopped at the Bulldog one-yard line, while Tyler Riddell (Tampa, Fla.) was then picked off on a 2nd-and-7 play at The Citadel 10-yard line with ETSU trailing 17-14 at the 13:03 mark of the fourth quarter. The final dagger came when Trace Kelley (Gallatin, Tenn.) pinned The Citadel at its three-yard line with 3:05 remaining in the game, but just when it felt like the Bucs were prime to force a three-and-out situation, the Bulldogs ripped consecutive runs of 31 and 32-yards to eventually set up the game-winning field goal by Colby Kinter as time expired.
To go with the missed chances, ETSU committed eight penalties for 80 yards – four of which were 15-yard flags.
After opening the season with a 37-point win over Mars Hill, the Bucs now dropped to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The Citadel, who suffered a 19-point loss last week at Campbell, improved to 1-1 overall and 1-0 in league play.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
The Citadel 3, ETSU 0: On the first possession of the game, The Citadel drove 59 yards on seven plays and took an early 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal by Colby Kinter.
The Citadel 10, ETSU 0: After the Bucs drove to The Citadel one-yard line on their opening possession and came away empty, ETSU was unable to gain momentum on offense, and the Bulldogs extended their lead. Peyton Derrick hit Tyler Cherry for a 17-yard pass play, capping a 15-play, 82-yard drive that covered nearly nine minutes and The Citadel led 10-0 with 3:50 left before halftime.
The Citadel 10, ETSU 7: The Bucs finally broke through on their final possession of the first half when Tyler Riddell hit Will Huzzie (Duluth, Ga.) for a 2-yard score, making it a 10-7 game with 1:03 remaining before intermission. The drive saw the Bucs go 75 yards on 10 plays in just under three minutes with Riddell completing six of his seven passes for 70 yards, including a 26-yard strike to Huzzie to move the ball inside the Bulldog 2-yard line.
The Citadel 17, ETSU 7: Following a 50-yard punt return that set the Bulldogs up inside the ETSU 20-yard line, The Citadel scored seven plays later on a 5-yard run via 3rd-and-goal, putting the hosts up by 10.
The Citadel 17, ETSU 14: ETSU wasted little time responding to the Bulldogs’ score as a 34-yard kickoff return by Ton’Quez Ball (Knoxville, Tenn.) started the drive at the Bucs’ 39-yard line. Following a five-yard run by Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tenn.), the SoCon Preseason Offensive Player of the Year broke through for a 56-yard score to cap off a 2-play, 61-yard drive in only 43 seconds.
ETSU 17, The Citadel 17: After missing out on a golden opportunity early in the fourth quarter where ETSU had the ball inside the Bulldog 15-yard line and threw an interception in the end zone, the Bucs finally pulled even when Tyler Keltner (Tallahassee, Fla.) connected on a 28-yard field goal, making it 17-17 with 7:39 remaining.
The Citadel 20, ETSU 17: Starting the final drive from its 16-yard line, ETSU was unable to break through for the go-ahead score as the Bucs’ stalled at their 46-yard line. Despite Kelley’s punt pinning the Bulldogs at the 3-yard line, The Citadel used the final three minutes and five seconds to go 75 yards on nine plays, setting up the 39-yard game-winning field goal. Logan Billings, who rushed for 102 yards on 15 carries, had back-to-back runs over 30 yards to put The Citadel into field goal range.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
ETSU totaled 351 yards of offense (183 rushing/168 passing), compared to The Citadel finishing with 327 yards (246 rushing/81 passing)
The Citadel won the time of possession, 39:16 to 20:44 … In the second half, the Bulldogs had the ball for 20:57
ETSU’s average field position was its own 38-yard line, compared to The Citadel starting at its own 23
Chandler Martin (Lithonia, Ga.) set the single-game program record for tackles as he notched 23 hits and one tackle for loss … The previous record was held by Nakia Thomas who had 22 tackles against Appalachian State in 1993
Jacob Saylors rushed for 187 yards and one touchdown, while he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage once … Saylors registered his eighth career 100-yard rushing game, while the 187 yards marked his second highest output behind last year’s record-setting 266-yard performance at Western Carolina … Saylors finished with 233 all-purpose yards as he added one catch for 46 yards … For his career, Saylors now has 4,682 all-purpose yards and 2,794 rushing yards
Will Huzzie registered a touchdown reception for the second straight game as he finished with five catches (nine targets) for 51 yards and one score
Timmy Dorsey (Oakland, Calif.) finished with a career-high 10 tackles, while Rodney Wright (Athens, Ga.) and Stephen Scott (Greensboro, N.C.) each finished with nine hits
After completing 74 percent of his passes in the season opener, Tyler Riddell finished 13-of-24 for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception
Ton’Quez Ball had two kickoff returns for 62 yards, including the long of 34 yards
With the loss, ETSU – who had won the last two games in the series – moves to 18-13 all-time against The Citadel
The Bucs moved to 16-16 all-time in SoCon openers and are now 4-3 in league openers since returning to the conference in 2016
ETSU returns home to take on Furman next Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. inside Greene Stadium.