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Bucs hold off Bulldogs for fifth straight win

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 13, 2018 at 9:08 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Four field goals by JJ Jerman plus two interceptions by Tyree Robinson added up to the sixth win of the season for the East Tennessee State football team.

Jerman tied the Bucs' single-game school record with the four field goals, Robinson's second interception resulted in a 42-yard return for a touchdown with 1:53 left and the No. 23 Bucs held off The Citadel 26-23 on Saturday afternoon at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The fifth straight win for the Bucs (6-1, 4-0 Southern Conference) also left them as the only SoCon team without a loss following Furman’s 34-14 victory over Wofford on Saturday.

"We're excited to be where we are, undefeated in the conference and 6-1 on the season, but we have to finish this," ETSU coach Randy Sanders said. "Our challenge is to be 10-1 at the end of the season.

"ETSU had a few years of not playing, but I checked and it was 1997 when ETSU last won back-to-back conference road games. We've done something that hasn't been done in a pretty good while. The team is playing with great heart and great effort. As long as we play with that kind of heart and effort, we have a chance."

With all three phases of the game working in what Sanders called a tremendous team win, Jerman went 4-for-4 with field goals of 46, 40, 31 and 36 yards. The 46-yarder set him on the right path for the game.

"The first field goal, the wind wasn't terrible, but the way the (stadium) wall behind the end zone is, the wind is blocked to an extent," Jerman said. "It becomes more of a factor when you get to a certain height (on the kick), so I was happy to make the 46-yarder. It was a confidence builder, the longest I've hit this season and I'm happy that coach gave me the opportunity to go out there and do that."

ETSU quarterback Austin Herink completed 15 of 20 passes for 169 yards, often scrambling away from the defense. Wide receiver Anthony Spagnoletti had five catches for 40 yards and Kobe Kelley hauled in four passes for 80 yards. The passing numbers offset the ground game; ETSU managed just 55 rushing yards on 31 carries.

The Bulldogs ran the ball 54 times for 203 yards. They had 26 more offensive plays than the Bucs and outgained them 391-224 in yardage, although ETSU proved to be efficient enough.

"One thing that has been good for us this year is we're good in all aspects of the offense," Herink said. "We can run the ball and we can throw the ball. We're hanging our hat on being a complete football team. They shut us down early, but that plays with our experience.

"Matthew Pyke is our center and he has been playing since we've started football back. We were like, 'Hey, we can weather this storm.'  ... We just stayed calm and kept chipping away."

Jordan Black, who was 15-of-23 passing for 188 yards, put the Bulldogs ahead on their opening possession. After connecting with Raleigh Webb on a 69-yard pass play, Black followed with a 2-yard dive in the end zone for a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point.

The ETSU defense stopped The Citadel on a pair of fourth-and-1 plays in Bulldogs territory then used Jerman's field goals of 46 and 40 yards to tie the game.

The Bulldogs regained the lead on Jacob Godek’s 36-yard field goal only to be answered by Jerman's 31-yard field goal, and the score was 9-9 at halftime.

ETSU struck first in the second half on Herink’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Kelley in the third quarter. The Citadel tied it again on Black’s quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1.

Jerman gave ETSU a 19-16 lead with his 36-yard field goal with 4:02 left, which was followed by Robinson's pick-6.

The interception came on a ball deflected at the line and tipped again by cornerback Karon Delince.

"I saw Karon tip it up and it landed in my hands perfectly," Robinson said. "From there, I just saw grass and I was away running."

The Citadel marched down the field and scored with 32 seconds left on Clay Harris’ 3-yard run, but ETSU's Artevius Smith recovered an onside kick to seal the victory.

ETSU will try to extend its winning streak at No. 4 Wofford in a game scheduled next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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