Don’t tell the East Tennessee State football team it’s playing against a lower-level opponent this week. The Bucs have already shown what can happen to a team that thinks like that.
ETSU, ranked 15th in the STATS FCS national poll, plays host to UVA Wise on Saturday night. The game comes a week after the Bucs beat Vanderbilt in just the program’s second win over a major-college opponent.
Now they know the Cavs, members of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference, are coming to Greene Stadium with that kind of performance on their minds.
“You know we can’t take any of our opponents lightly,” Bucs running back Quay Holmes said. “We just have to maintain that same intensity. It’s about maturity. There should be no reason why somebody should play harder or less harder just because of the name of who they’re playing. We’re all competitive and we all want to be winners. We should all want to play our best every game anyway.”
UVA Wise is coming off a 54-0 victory over Virginia-Lynchburg in its season opener, and that number definitely caught the Bucs’ attention.
“We know that they can put points up and we know that they can stop teams from scoring, so we can’t just scoff at that D-2 school,” Holmes said.
For his part, Bucs coach Randy Sanders was singing a similar tune, one his players have heard time and time again.
“It doesn’t matter what color the uniforms are, what the name of the jersey or what the logo of the helmet,” Sanders said. “You show up and be the best team that ETSU can be. If you do that it doesn’t matter whether you’re stepping up or playing somebody that’s at a quote-unquote level below you. It’s about ETSU. It’s about how good we can be, what can we improve on, what steps can we take to make ourselves a better football team each week. You do that and you don’t have the highs and lows.”
SCOUTING THE CAVS
Quarterback Lendon Redwine, a former Dobyns-Bennett High School standout, had six touchdown passes in last week’s game. He was 24 of 34 for 326 yards.
Utah State transfer Devin Heckstall led the way had five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. JJ McNeil III and Caleb Martin also caught two touchdown passes apiece,
On defense, freshman DaQuandre Taylor had seven tackles, including two quarterback sacks. Michael Rowser forced two fumbles and had three sacks.
The Cavs were picked to finish eighth in the nine-team SAC in a preseason poll. Dane Damron is in his sixth season as UVA Wise’s coach.
The last time the Cavaliers faced off against a Division I opponent was in 2019 when they fell 31-14 to Tennessee Tech. The last Southern Conference team to take on the Cavs was Wofford, which took a 49-15 victory in 2014.
Sanders said the thing that made him proudest during the win at Vandy was seeing how his team stood up to the challenge without backing down.
“I didn’t think our team would be scared or intimidated,” he said. “I felt like we would show up, compete, play hard. And that’s exactly what our guys did. So that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of, the fact that they showed up, were not scared, were not intimidated. At halftime I said ‘Don’t be scared to win.’ That’s the kind of mindset that I’m trying to instill in them, things we’re trying to build in the program.”
ONE MORE VANDY NOTE
In ETSU’s 23-3 victory over Vandy, the Bucs became just the second FCS team to ever hold and FBS opponent without a touchdown. The other one was The Citadel in a 10-3 win over Arkansas in 1992.
First responders, medical personnel, active military and veterans will be admitted free.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.