ETSU coach Carl Torbush says his team was chosen as homecoming fodder for the Bulldogs.
“I don’t know why you’d have the 10th game of the season as your homecoming game unless you have a reason to do so,” Torbush said Monday during his weekly news conference at Greene Stadium. “I’ve got a pretty good idea I know what the reason to do so is. I know normally what you try to schedule on homecoming, so if I’m a player, I know why it’s there.”
The Bucs and Bulldogs play at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama, on Saturday at 3 p.m. EST.
If ETSU was specifically chosen as a homecoming opponent, it might be because Samford has some unfinished business against the Bucs, who pulled off a surprise 15-14 victory last year on the last day of the regular season. The result didn’t keep the Bulldogs out of the playoffs, but it likely left a bad taste in their mouths.
“They weren’t even sure they were going to get in the playoffs last year after we beat them,” Torbush said. “It was a great win for us, a great win to end that thing out. It was a tough loss for them.”
The Bucs know they will be facing the Southern Conference’s top passing attack. Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges averages 335.7 passing yards per game to rank fourth in the country. His 24 touchdown passes rank fifth nationally.
Hodges was the Southern Conference’s offensive player of the year last season after passing for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns, both school records, but the Bucs shut him down on a damp and chilly day in Johnson City. His 14 completions and 122 yards were by far his lowest totals of the season.
In 29 career games as Samford’s quarterback, Hodges has failed to throw a touchdown pass twice — last year against ETSU and the previous season against Louisville.
Slowing down the most prolific passer in the league enabled the Bucs to pull out a close game. They regained possession with 3:36 left and ran every second off the clock before JJ Jerman’s 28-yard field goal won it with no time left.
“When you lay it out there what we needed to do, how we needed to do it, the time we needed to run off the clock, we did all those things,” Torbush said. “We wanted to have a chance to win at the end of the game and that’s exactly what we did. We didn’t let a potent offense back on the field.”
The Bulldogs come in ranked 14th in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll. They’re 6-3 overall, 4-2 in the SoCon, and battling for a playoff berth again.
ETSU is 4-5 overall, 2-4 in the conference and is coming off a 24-6 victory against Virginia Military Institute. The Bucs know Samford is an entirely different animal than VMI, which is still searching for its first win of the season.
“Our players know what we’re in store for,” Torbush said. “I like where our football team is right now. If we play as well as we can and cut out some silly mistakes, then I feel good about our chances of going down there and coming back with a win.”
Torbush brought two players with him to the news conference, and one of them, wide receiver Vincent Lowe, had a walking boot on his foot. He injured it while making a sideline catch late against VMI.
Torbush and Lowe both said it was a precautionary measure and that Lowe’s status would be evaluated during the week.
Punter Marion Watson was injured while being tackled after fumbling a snap against VMI. He was hit hard and had to leave the game. Torbush said he’ll likely miss at least a couple of days of practice before his status is determined for the Samford game.