A day after being on the losing end of a 52-10 decision against James Madison, the Bucs’ coaches began preparations for Saturday’s home game against The Citadel.
They were doing it with a convincing defeat still fresh in their minds.
The scoreboard told you everything you really needed to know on Saturday. James Madison was ranked No. 1 for a reason and ETSU was just another roadblock on its quest for a second consecutive national championship.
“We’re not going to grade alignment, assignment and technique a great deal,” ETSU coach Carl Torbush said. “We are going to grade effort and make sure that we fought, which I think we did. We need to make sure we have the right guys on the field.”
It didn’t matter who was on the field on Saturday. James Madison was on a roll.
“We did play the best team in the country,” ETSU quarterback Austin Herink said. “That defense was really, really good. I don’t think I’ve ever played against a defense that good. A lot of team speed there.
“What we do is look at what we did wrong and look at what we did right and build on that. It’s a process, getting better.”
The Bucs’ only touchdown came on defense, their only sustained drive stalled with a field goal and they really didn’t even try to score on their final possession.
Down by 42 points and taking over at its own 25-yard line with 6:05 remaining, ETSU basically ran out the clock.
Without showing any sense of urgency, the Bucs ran the ball on nine out of 10 plays before finally throwing downfield as the clock hit zeroes, and that was an incompletion.
That 11-play drive covered 43 of ETSU’s 175 total yards and ended on the James Madison 32-yard line.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Bucs. Their run defense looked stout. Against a team that had rushed for more than 400 yards a week earlier, they held the Dukes to three yards per carry.
Selling out to stop the run left some holes at the back end of the defense, and James Madison quarterback Bryan Schor took advantage. The senior passed for 304 yards and five touchdowns.
“We did a nice job against the running game,” Torbush said. “We just could not convert on third and long, third and medium.”
James Madison faced 15 third-down plays and turned 10 of them into drive-sustaining first downs. The Dukes only punted twice.
“If you give up those kind of third-down stats, you’re going to get beat,” Torbush said. “But I thought against the running game, our guys held up extremely well, especially after what James Madison did last week.”
The Bucs only had one turnover, a tipped interception. But they were penalized three times on kickoffs, killing their field position, and gave up an average of 32 yards on punt returns, including a 41-yard touchdown.
“We made too many mistakes to keep the game as close as we had planned on it being,” Torbush said.
It doesn’t get a whole lot easier this week. The Citadel comes to William B. Greene Jr. Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday with a different kind of challenge.
The 2-0 Bulldogs run a triple-option offense that gave the Bucs fits in a 45-10 victory last season.