JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Wofford is the only Southern Conference team East Tennessee State hasn’t beaten since the Buccaneers resurrected its football program in 2015.
They’ve still got work to do to chain the Terriers.
Joe Newman accounted for 171 yards and scored four touchdowns in the first half alone, and the Terriers held off the Buccaneers to claim a 35-17 Southern Conference victory in front of an announced audience of 8,242 on Saturday afternoon at Greene Stadium.
Wofford (3-2, 2-1), the preseason favorite to win the SoCon, defeated the Buccaneers for a ninth straight time, dating back to 1998.
“It was definitely frustrating. We have just got to go out there and play better as a defense,” ETSU redshirt junior linebacker Blake Bockrath said. “We have got to prepare better and it starts Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We have got to watch film more.”
The Terriers dominated the opening half, outgaining the Buccaneers 331-53, while controlling the football for nearly 21 of 30 minutes of clock.
“We have got to do a much better job defensively,” ETSU head coach Randy Sanders said. “It is not like Wofford went out and invented the wheel. It wasn’t anything we didn’t expect. I think the whole game they ran one play that we had seen on film or wasn’t prepared for.”
ETSU (2-4, 0-3) played better after the break, outgaining the Terriers 205-123, but could never get closer than 28-17.
“I think we came out in the second half and we were focused, we knew what we needed to do,” Bockrath said. “We knew we were behind and we knew if we came out and we started playing lackadaisical we wouldn’t have a chance at all. We put it together a little bit and played a little bit better.”
It was too late for the Buccaneers, who managed only a first half 27-yard field goal by Tyler Keltner, which trimmed the deficit to 14-3, a play set up by a 59-yard kick return and 18-yard run from Quay Holmes.
ETSU ran just 18 offensive plays compared to 39 for the Terriers in the opening half.
“It is tough, but I feel like we stopped ourselves sometimes on offense,” said ETSU quarterback Trey Mitchell, who completed 12-of-23 passes for 163 yards, but had several dropped balls. “We only ran 18 plays, but a lot of the drives we stopped ourselves so we missed opportunities to have more plays to give our defense some rest.”
The defense needed it as Newman ran the Buccaneers ragged, one on a terrific fake that ended with a 15-yard run into the end zone for a 28-3 lead at the break. He also scored from 59 yards, breaking through the line and out-running the entire defense to the end zone. Newman also scored a 1-yard first quarter score and had another 8-yard touchdown during a 21-point second period.
Newman finished with 185 yards on the ground and 49 through the air.
“When we do what we are supposed to do and handle it the way we are supposed to handle it, we are capable of playing with anyone I think from an offensive standpoint,” Sanders said. “When we are not making good decisions, when we have mental lapses, dropped passes, whatever it is, then we are capable of getting beat by anybody.”
ETSU, which shared the SoCon championship last season with the Terriers, took the opening drive of the second half, driving 75 yards - 22 yards more than they had the entire first 30 minutes - with Holmes scoring on a 1-yard run after an 8-yard run by Jacob Saylors and a catch from Nate Adkins.
That narrowed the margin to 28-10, but the Buccaneers also had two three-and-outs in the second half before the Terriers put it away with a 92-yard, 15-play drive late in the fourth period after ETSU got it to 11 on a 26-yard scoring pass from Mitchell to Holmes with 14:32 left in the game.
Sanders wanted Saylors and Holmes to have more than 40 touches. They combined for 23 opportunities with the ball for 134 yards.
“We got some stops defensively,” Sanders said. “I think we had it four times in the second half and scored twice, but we had two 3-and-outs because we dropped a couple of balls, made a couple of bad decisions with checks. When you are playing a good team you can’t waste plays and obviously we wasted a few plays that stopped us.”
Newman was driving Wofford downfield again late the final period before leaving with an apparent leg injury. The Terriers didn’t miss much, with Miller Mosley capping off the 92-yard, 15-play drive with a four-yard scoring run.
“That second half is a great example. When we don’t make stupid mistakes and make mental errors and things like that offensively we can move the ball right down the field and score,” Sanders said. “When we don’t have great attention to detail or our focus is wandering or whatever it is, then we can go 3-and-out versus anybody and that is how the second half was.”
ETSU, which was led defensively by Artevius Smith with nine tackles and an interception, was left with questions to answer with a bye week ahead.
“Unfortunately, we are not nearly consistent enough. At some point it has to become more important, there has to be more of a sense of urgency to fix things,” Sanders said. “It seems like some of the issues the last few weeks any way seem to be kind of recurring themes with some of the same guys.
“We have got to those things fixed, we are getting tired of that in a hurry.”
A visit to Chattanooga on Thursday, Oct. 17, awaits the Buccaneers.
“This bye week is going to be good for us,” Bockrath said. “We are going to be able to rest up, watch film and make corrections, get on the field and get ready for this next conference game that we need to win.”
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