What they couldn’t have expected was that ETSU would be going to Spartanburg, S.C., alone in first place in the Southern Conference standings.
The Bucs (6-1, 4-0) play at Wofford on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as the only SoCon team yet to lose a conference game and ranked 21st in both national polls.
“We played ourselves into position to make it a big game,” first-year ETSU coach Randy Sanders said Monday during his weekly news conference at Greene Stadium. “We’re getting ready to go play a good football team.”
Wofford (4-2, 3-1) looked like the class of the league until losing 34-14 to Furman last weekend. While that defeat slowed the Terriers’ momentum, they’re still ranked 12th in the country. Their other loss was a 17-14 defeat at Wyoming.
Saturday is Wofford’s homecoming game. Though the Terriers have won 12 of their 14 home games over the past two seasons, the two losses during that span each came on homecoming weekend.
ETSU is coming off a 26-23 victory over The Citadel, the Bucs’ fifth consecutive win.
“I’m not surprised by the success that we’ve had, but I am pleased with it,” Sanders said. “It’s been good that it happened so quickly.”
While Sanders is obviously happy with his team’s penchant for winning, he continues to preach that this season is still a work in progress and the final chapters are yet to be written.
“We’ve got to finish this season,” he said. “That’s going to be the critical part. We’re off to a great start. How we finish is going to determine how this football team is remembered.
“At some point, 20 years down the road, 30 years down the road, this group of guys is going to get back together. How are they going to be remembered? How are they going to remember this season? That’s what I want them to think about. Every day you go out there and play, you’re making a memory. Let’s make a memory you’ll look back upon fondly.”
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
ETSU safety Tyree Robinson and kicker JJ Jerman were honored by the Southern Conference for their performances against The Citadel.
Robinson, who returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, was the league’s defensive player of the week. Jerman, whose four field goals tied the single-game school record, was the special teams player of the week.
“I expect JJ to quit hitting uprights,” Sanders said. “Knock them through the uprights without trying to give us a heart attack.”
One of Jerman’s field goals Saturday banged off the inside of the upright before squeaking over. He’s hit 11 of his 14 attempts this season. One of his misses banged off the upright and another scraped the outside of the post.
The Bucs’ four conference wins have been by a total of 11 points.
“Once the game’s over, a win is a win,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s by one point or 50 points. We just need wins, more points than the other team. One more, 10 more or 25 more. It doesn’t matter.”
The sixth victory of the year assured the Bucs of a winning season, something to which Sanders has become accustomed. In 30 years, he noted, teams he’s coached have had only three losing seasons.
“If I ever get to where I’m just purely satisfied with a winning season, I’m going to get out of this business,” Sanders said.