East Tennessee State won a Southern Conference football game on the road for the first time since 2002 Friday, beating Virginia Military Institute 27-24 in a turnover fest at Foster Stadium.
The teams combined for 10 turnovers — eight interceptions and two fumbles — but when the smoke from the frighteningly loud on-field cannon finally cleared, the Bucs were victorious and had improved to 2-1.
“If we’re going to accomplish what we want to accomplish and go where we want to go, we have to learn how to win on the road,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. “It’s never easy. It’s never just ‘show up and get it done.’ To be able to come on the road and get a win — and not play nearly as well as we can or should have — hopefully we’ll make it a bigger learning experience for us.”
With 12:10 left in the third quarter, ETSU quarterback Logan Marchi was replaced by Austin Herink. After ETSU netted three yards on two plays, Marchi returned.
Somehow, the time off seemed to work as Marchi took off up the middle on a quarterback draw on the next play, cut left and found nothing but green grass between himself and the goal line. The 19-yard touchdown gave ETSU a 20-17 lead.
“Just getting something taped up,” Marchi said. “Everything checked out and we were good.”
After the Keydets (0-3) took advantage of Marchi’s third interception to regain the lead at 24-20, Quay Holmes scored on a 2-yard run to put the Bucs back on top, 27-24, with 11:50 left in the game.
Five minutes later, VMI’s Reed King was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the score.
Quan Harrison gave ETSU a 7-0 lead with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown one minute, 26 seconds into the game. That put the Bucs ahead before they ever had an offensive snap.
“It felt great,” said Harrison, a redshirt junior from Greeneville. “I hadn’t had one since I’ve been here. I felt like I was getting too close. I finally got it.”
The Keydets took advantage of two interceptions thrown by Marchi to get two quick touchdowns in the second quarter.
First, VMI put together a scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Quan Myers. Then Marchi threw off his back foot while being pressured and Devin Carper picked it off and returned it 15 yards for the easiest touchdown he’ll ever score.
FOLKS COMES UP BIG
ETSU linebacker Jared Folks made his presence felt all afternoon. The transfer from Temple had two sacks, two more tackles for loss, an interception and caused a fumble that was recovered by Jason Maduafokwa.
That fumble set up ETSU’s drive that ended in Marchi’s touchdown run.
“It was fun,” Folks said. “We had some good play calls. I was just moving around in different packages. I was just making the plays they were calling.”
The Bucs picked off five passes. In addition to Folks, Karon Delince, Domenique Williams, Jeremy Lewis and M.J. Woods had the interceptions.
ETSU’s JJ Jerman booted field goals of 25 and 19 yards, the second one coming on the final play of the first half. King had a 21-yard field goal in between.
Landon Kunak’s kickoff in the fourth quarter traveled 95 yards before it stopped far through the end zone and Marion Watson got off three booming punts in the fourth quarter that resulted in fair catches.
BY THE NUMBERS
Marchi completed 15 of 36 passes for 181 yards. He was intercepted three times. He also rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries.
Holmes led the Bucs with 69 yards on 21 carries. The Bucs rushed for more than 100 yards for the third game in a row.
ETSU sacked VMI quarterback Reece Udinski five times. In addition to Folks’ two, other players getting sacks were Tremond Ferrell, Maduafokwa and Austin Gatewoood.
Udinski was 27 for 60 for 305 yards and four interceptions. The 60 attempts were a school record. Kris Thornton caught 10 of those passes for 119 yards.
The Bucs’ next three games are at home, starting with next Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup with Furman. Then Chattanooga and Gardner-Webb come to town on the following two weekends.