East Tennessee State's football team had success against a strong running game last week, but this Saturday's opponent may pose even more of a challenge for the Buccaneers' run defense.
They lost 52-10 last week to James Madison, but the No. 1-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team in the country gained only 122 yards on 39 rushing attempts after piling up 410 yards on 42 carries the previous week at East Carolina.
Now the Bucs (1-1) host 13th-ranked The Citadel and its triple-option offense at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium in Johnson City — ETSU's brand-new facility.
The Bucs had a crowd of 9,530 in their first home game in their new stadium, a 31-10 win over Limestone on Sept. 2. They totaled five wins a season ago, including two over ranked teams (Kennesaw State and Samford), but The Citadel defeated them 45-10 in Charleston, S.C.
"This will be a great challenge for our football team to see how much improvement we've made against them since last year," ETSU coach Carl Torbush said during his Monday news conference. "Our players are tremendously excited about this opportunity. It's the first week in conference play, and to face the defending SoCon champions and a team that is a national playoff contender makes it even more exciting.
"We are looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully we have another great crowd this weekend."
The Bulldogs are dealing with flooding in Charleston and having been displaced from Hurricane Irma. They had their scheduled home game last Saturday against Presbyterian moved away from the coast to Clinton, S.C., home of the Blue Hose. So far this week they've practiced at Clemson, and then they have an off week before playing Samford in Birmingham on Sept. 30.
Last week's relocation didn't stop their attack, as they put up 435 yards rushing and 104 through the air in a 48-7 win. Now it's the Bucs' turn to attempt to stop them.
"We have to play our specific responsibility every single play," ETSU linebacker River Boruff said. "That's what it breaks down to on every play. There needs to be a guy on the quarterback, fullback, running back and pitch. Everything comes down to a 'T' every single play.
"Going up against the option is a whole new animal completely. It's unlike any type of spread or any other offense that's run. The triple option is — most of the time — the thing that people dread to play, but we're excited to go out there and play against it."
Last season, the Southern Conference had four teams — The Citadel, Samford, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Wofford — advance to the FCS playoffs, based on nonconference success combined with their league showings.
So far, only Samford has a quality nonleague win in 2017, having rallied to defeat Kennesaw State 28-23. UTC has lost to one nonconference FCS opponent (27-13 to Jacksonville State) but has another opportunity this Saturday when it hosts UT-Martin, another Ohio Valley Conference member.
Western Carolina and Wofford face Big South members Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian in upcoming weeks.
Players of the Week
Western Carolina running back Detrez Newsome, Wofford defensive back Devin Watson and Mercer kicker Cole Fisher are the lates SoCon player of the week.
Newsome rushed for 288 yards and three touchdowns in the Catamounts' 63-17 win over Davidson, with the scoring runs covering 78, 25 and 88 yards. Watson had a pair of interceptions, including a key one after the Terriers had taken a one-point lead, in Wofford's 28-27 win at Mercer, while Fisher made two field goals and three extra points in the one-point loss.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.