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Bucs set for trip to Samford

Joe Avento • Oct 26, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Still searching for his first Southern Conference win of the season, East Tennessee State football coach Randy Sanders doesn’t see any relief on the horizon.

“Our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to cowboy up and go play ball.”

A year after winning a handful of close games and a share of the SoCon championship, the Bucs have been snakebitten this season. They’re 2-5 overall and have lost all four of their conference games, three by a touchdown or less.

“There’s no question that we had opportunities in most of the games we’ve played in,” Sanders said.

The Bucs’ fifth chance at their first SoCon victory comes Saturday when they take on Samford at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST. Samford is 3-4 overall, 2-2 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs lead the overall series 5-1, including a 38-27 victory in Johnson City last year that cost ETSU sole possession of the SoCon title.

Samford is second in the league in passing, averaging 284 yards per game. The Bucs are tops in pass defense, giving up 164.

GETTING HIS KICKS

ETSU freshman kicker Tyler Keltner is having a superb season. The newcomer has made 8 of 9 field goal attempts while drilling all 15 of his extra point tries.

He’s certainly settled a position that was a big question mark after record-setting kicker JJ Jerman graduated after last season.

MAKING PLAYS

Will Huzzie’s spectacular one-handed touchdown catch against Chattanooga made ESPN’s top play last Thursday night. Sanders said the team needs to make more plays like that. He seemed to indicate he might open up the offense a bit this week.

“There’s no question that calling plays with this team is challenging at times,” Sanders said. “Will made the great catch the other night, but when was the last one? You know, when was the last time something really just happened out of the ordinary that shouldn’t happen? We’ve got to try to develop that and I’m trying to create that, but I told some of our coaches yesterday that we’re going have to start digging deep in the playbook, looking for trick plays, special plays and everything else to expand a little more.”

Sanders said he was hopeful ETSU will get injured receivers Braxton Richburg and Isaiah Wilson back this week.

QUICK STRIKES

Samford leads the SoCon in scoring at 38.9 points per game and has had 15 scoring drives of two minutes or less. In four-plus seasons under Chris Hatcher, the Bulldogs have had 109 scoring drives of two minutes or less and 49 that have lasted one minute or less.

MAKING THE BULLDOGS GO

Chris Oladokun runs the show for Samford, The junior quarterback transferred from South Florida, where he started two games last year. He leads the SoCon in touchdown passes with 15 while throwing for 1,585 yards and being intercepted five times. He’s also the team’s second-leading rusher with 350 yards and six touchdowns.

Oladokun was the SoCon’s offensive player of the week three times in September.

Middle linebacker John Staton is the team’s defensive leader. He ranks fourth in FCS in tackles per game (11.7) and total tackles (82).

No team in the conference allows more than Samford’s 42.9 points per game.

THE FANS SPEAK

In a poll on Samford’s website, fans were asked to vote on which game they were looking forward to the most. They’re apparently not too interested in Saturday’s game.

ETSU game received 2% of the vote. Auburn was first with 54%. The others on the list: Youngstown State (15%), The Citadel (11%), Furman (11%) and Chattanooga (7%).

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