“It’s the ‘So what, now what’ mentality that coach has implemented here,” ETSU safety Tyree Robinson said. “Play the next play; whatever happens happens. That’s what Coach Sanders is saying. If they score, we have to come out and score. If they have a turnover, we need to capitalize on that turnover. We have to play the next play and not focus on the past.”
While the Bucs (7-2, 5-1 Southern Conference) were winning seven of their first nine games this season, Sanders was working diligently to keep his players on an even keel. So far, they’re buying into the idea that whatever has happened, good or bad, is in the past, and all that matters is what’s ahead.
Sanders’ philosophy has enabled ETSU to surge into a first-place tie with Wofford atop the SoCon standings. And at 23rd in the STATS FCS poll and 24th in the coaches' poll, the Bucs are nationally ranked for a fourth consecutive week.
“I know I keep saying the same things, but when the reasons for winning change, I’ll change,” Sanders said. “But at this point, it’s one game at a time, one day at a time. Let’s focus on what we have to do today to get better as a football team. Focus on what we have to do to go win Game 10.”
Game 10 is Saturday when ETSU plays at Mercer (4-4, 3-2) at 3 p.m. on what can be a pivotal day in the league standings.
With Wofford (6-2, 5-1) taking on Samford (4-4, 3-2), a Bucs win could leave them all alone in first place and staring at a spot in the Football Championship Series playoffs with one game to go. A loss could drop them into a four-way tie for second depending on the outcome of the other SoCon games.
ETSU is one of eight FCS teams with at least seven victories. No. 1 North Dakota State (8-0), No. 2 Kennesaw State (7-1), No. 6 UC Davis (7-1), No. 11 Colgate (7-0), No. 14 Princeton (7-0), No. 20 Dartmouth (7-0) and Alcorn State (7-2) are the others.
Redshirt freshman running back Quay Holmes has 10 rushing touchdowns this season, just the third ETSU player to reach that number in a season. George Searcy has the school record with 17 rushing touchdowns in 1989. Brandon Walker had 13 in 1996 and ’99 and scored 10 in 1998.
Bears running back Tee Mitchell needs 103 all-purpose yards to break the school’s career record of 3,526. He suffered a shoulder injury last week in a loss to Wofford and is questionable for Saturday’s game.
Tyray Devezin rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown as Mitchell’s replacement.