That has to account for something.
The Bucs turned the ball over four times in a 27-24 victory over Virginia Military Institute on Friday. They forced six turnovers of their own, which was good enough to take an ugly victory in what was an ugly game.
“At the end of the day, it is a win and you have to hang your hat on that,” ETSU quarterback Logan Marchi said. “It wasn’t the best game, but you have to learn from those mistakes.”
One of the mistakes stood out among the others. With the game tied 7-7, Marchi dropped back and the Keydets got some pressure. With a defender in his face, Marchi threw the ball, VMI linebacker Devin Carper picked it off and waltzed into the end zone to give his team a 14-7 lead.
“I asked the quarterback which team is he on?” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. “That interception he threw there in the first half looked like he had money on the game and I bet on the wrong team.
“But I thought he bounced back. He competed and played hard.”
Marchi said he was trying to throw the ball away.
“I was trying to throw it in the dirt,” he said. “I was just off and it came out of my hand bad. Those are things that you have to shake off. If you don’t, it’ll carry over.”
The miscue was one of three interceptions thrown by Marchi, yet he stayed even keel and eventually scored on a 19-yard touchdown run.
“Those guys are looking at you and if you hang your head on one play, they think they have to do it too,” Marchi said. “If you can stay strong and look toward the next play, that’s what you have to do as a leader and as a quarterback.”
In fairness to Marchi, his receivers didn’t help him a few times when he could have used it, dropping numerous passes in some key situations.
VMI was having statistical and computer issues, which might have led to a couple of quarterback sacks being missed on the official postgame stat sheet.
After a review of the game film, it was decided that the Bucs had seven quarterback sacks. Linebacker Jared Folks finished with 3.5 of them, adding to what was already a monster game. Folks also had an interception and forced a fumble.
Jason Maduafokwa had 1.5 of the sacks while Blake Bockrath and Austin Gatewood had the others.
The pass rush helped the defense pick off five passes. That’s how many interceptions the team had all of last season.
On VMI’s final drive, ETSU was called for two penalties on the same play. With the Keydets facing a third-and-10, the Bucs had Reece Udinski sacked. Defensive tackle Tremond Ferrell jumped into the fray and was called for a late hit. An unsportsmanlike conduct call was tacked on, giving the Keydets new life.
The drive eventually stalled and the Bucs survived.
“It got real hairy,” Sanders said. “Our guys play hard, but smart is not necessarily in our vocabulary right now — yet. We’re still working on that. We’re still trying to figure it out.
“We just do so many things that are not smart football. You can’t coach things like that. It’s just common football sense. They don’t always play with good, common football sense.”
ROAD SOCON WIN
It had been 5,831 days since ETSU had won a Southern Conference road game — counting the 12 years the program was dormant — so Friday’s win was a big milestone.
“It’s good for the university and the program to get that win,” Marchi said. “As a football team, we’re moving on. Whether it’s home or road, we’re trying to go 1-0 each week, just stack those wins and keep moving on.”
The Bucs’ offensive line shook things up for the second week in a row.
Tre’Mond Shorts, a 6-foot-4, 326-pound red-shirt freshman, made his first start at right guard. Myles Smith, who started the previous two games at right guard, is out for the season with a leg injury.
Greg McCloud made his second start at right tackle in place of Eddie Gajardo, who was hurt in the season opener against Mars Hill.
GROUND TO A HALT
Through three quarters, VMI had amassed negative 16 rushing yards. That sent observers to the record book to see if the Bucs were about to set a single-game mark. Even though they held the Keydets to negative 15 by the end of the game, they weren’t close to the record.
The ETSU school record for fewest rushing yards by an opponent is negative 43 yards, set in the Grantland Rice Bowl in 1969 when the Bucs sacked Terry Bradshaw 12 times.
JJ Jerman, ETSU’s kicker, tied the school record with two field goals. He now has 37 field goals, tying Jerry Chapman.