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New week, new challenge for ETSU

Joe Avento • Updated Sep 11, 2017 at 7:17 PM

The daunting schedule continues for East Tennessee State’s football team.

Coming off a 52-10 loss to No. 1 James Madison, the Bucs get another nationally ranked opponent when The Citadel comes to town on Saturday.

The Bulldogs are 2-0 and ranked 13th in the latest Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll.

“We know we have our hands full,” ETSU coach Carl Torbush said Monday during his weekly news conference.”

It’s the first Southern Conference game of the season for the Bucs, and it’s coming against the two-time defending conference champion. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium.

“I think our players are tremendously excited about this opportunity,” Torbush said. “It’s the first week in the SoCon against the defending SoCon champions, a team that’s a national playoff contender for the last several years.”

The Bulldogs are one of two teams in the Southern Conference using the triple-option offense, and it’s one they work to perfection. The’ve rushed for 809 yards in two games, wins over Newberry and Presbyterian. They don’t throw the ball much, but when they do, it can surprise a defense.

Against Presbyterian, Citadel quarterback Jordan Black tried four passes. He completed them all and three of them went for touchdowns.

“They can throw the football,” Torbush said. “If they had the perfect world, they wouldn’t throw it. They would run it every time. That’s what they do for a living. But they throw the ball well.

“They know what they’re doing with their offense. They’re well schooled on what they’re doing defensively. This will be a great challenge to see how much improvement we’ve made against them since last year.”

Against James Madison, the Bucs didn’t do themselves any favors on special teams thanks to poor punt coverage, some wobbly kicks and penalties on kickoff returns. They were fighting — and losing — the field position battle all night and they were never able to flip the field when they needed it.

“We’ve got some areas that we’ve got to get cleaned up a little bit, starting with our kicking game, and we’ve already challenged our guys there,” Torbush said. “When you play good football teams like JMU was and like Citadel is going to be, you can’t lose field position because if you do it’s going to come back to haunt you. Obviously it did.

“When we’re starting at the 16, if I’m a defensive coach, I like my opportunity from holding somebody from being able to go 84 yards.”

Kids get in free

Saturday is Kids Day at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium. Kids 12 and under get in free with a paying adult. Tickets are available for the second game ever to be held at ETSU’s new on-campus stadium.

Nomadic Bulldogs

Hurricane Irma didn’t lay a direct hit on Charleston, South Carolina, but it’s still affected The Citadel’s football team. Flooding was occurring in Charleston on Monday, forcing the team to stay on the road.

The Bulldogs’ game at Presbyterian on Saturday was moved up to noon to beat the expected storm and the team headed north afterward.

The players worked out at Science Hill High School in Johnson City on Sunday and then began to work their way back home. They practiced at Clemson on Monday and were hanging around in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, waiting for the OK to head back to Charleston..

As their city experienced flooding associated with Irma, their plans for the rest of the week remained up in the air. Coach Brent Thompson’s news conference, held each week on Tuesday, was expected to be canceled.

Former Citadel star dies

Former Citadel All-American Mitchell Jeter, the SoCon’s defensive player of the year in 2015, died in a two-car accident in South Carolina on Saturday.

Jeter was the first Citadel player to win the SoCon award. He led the team to the playoffs that year.

VMI game time changed

ETSU announced that the Nov. 4 home game against Virginia Military Institute would be played at 3 p.m. at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium.

Originally, the game was scheduled for noon.

ETSU has a recruiting open house on campus that day. The game-time switch was approved by VMI.

James Madison still No. 1

James Madison’s 52-10 win over ETSU did enough to convince the nation’s coaches that the team deserves to still be No. 1.

The Dukes received 24 of 26 first-place votes in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches’ poll to remain at the top. North Dakota State, which earned the other two-first-place votes, was second.

Tough schedule

The Bucs have nine games remaining and four of them will come against teams in the national rankings.

After taking on 13th-ranked The Citadel this week, they also have to face No. 9 Wofford, No. 15 Chattanooga and No. 17 Samford. All four of those teams were in the playoffs last season.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re excited for the opportunity,” Torbush said. “Hopefully we’ll have another great crowd this week. We’ll see how far we’ve come in two weeks of football.”

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