Bucs hope to slow Wofford's option attack

Joe Avento • Updated Sep 21, 2016 at 7:54 PM

They’ve already shut down one option team, now the Bucs of East Tennessee State University hope to replicate that effort.

ETSU travels to Wofford College on Saturday for a Southern Conference football game, and the Terriers will challenge the Bucs with their vaunted triple-option, an offense they have been running for 29 seasons under Mike Ayers.

“They’re very disciplined,” ETSU linebacker Austin Gatewood said. “Coach Torbush compared them to the military academies.”

Wofford is usually among the national leaders in rushing offense. This year is no different as the Terriers are third among FCS teams at 303 yards per game.

It’s the kind of matchup that usually gives defensive coaches headaches, but the Bucs at least have some experience stopping the option. They opened the season against Kennesaw State, another option team.

Last season, Kennesaw rushed for more than 400 yards against ETSU. This time around, they got only 166 and the Bucs limited the Owls to 2.9 yards per carry in a 20-17 double-overtime win.

“It gives you confidence,” Gatewood said. “You think if you play your assignments like you need to, you have a better chance of being successful.”

Assuming the Bucs didn’t forget everything they learned in the week leading up to the Kennesaw State game, that experience should help this week.

“Just to see that look Week One, I think it’s really going to be beneficial to our team,” linebacker Trey Quillin said. “Every team is different. They do a little bit of gun option stuff, but I think we’ll absolutely be prepared for whatever they have. We’re just going to play our game, that’s all we can do.”

Gatewood, who is fourth in the team with 10 tackles through two games, agreed.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “It’s really good that we got some experience. I was talking to (fellow linebacker) Dylan Weigel earlier and about how good it was that we played Kennesaw right off the jump. All preseason camp we worked against the spread and then we got Kennesaw. Now we know more about that option. It’s good that we got to see it.”

One way to keep the rushing yards down for Wofford is for the Bucs to keep the ball, and that’s something they’ve done surprisingly well so far this season. ETSU ranks fourth nationally in third-down conversions with a 55.9-percent success rate.

“We have to just go out there and execute the play that coach calls and do our best and everything will take care of itself,” ETSU quarterback Austin Herink said. “We just have to play our game and do what we’ve been doing in practice all week.”

The Bucs come into the game undefeated after two games. They’re coming off their first SoCon victory in 13 years, a 34-31 victory over Western Carolina, and they’re trying not to get too excited about it.

“I think for us, it’s all about going 1-0 one week at a time and not worrying about what we have next,” Quillin said. “All we’re worrying about this week is Wofford. We can’t worry about the rest of the schedule until we get there. We’re focusing on one week at a time. That’s all you can do.”

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