JOHNSON CITY — Winning is fun, Quay Holmes says, but so is taking opponents’ best shots every week.
That’s the position the East Tennessee State football team finds itself in.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Holmes, ETSU’s star running back. “We have a target on our back. We know that teams playing against us can see that we’re ranked. Everybody wants to be that spoiler team. That’s actually fun, too.”
Holmes helped ETSU remain undefeated Saturday when his 77-yard scoring scamper on a screen pass in the fourth quarter provided the winning margin in a 27-21 victory over Wofford, the Bucs’ first win over the Terriers in 23 years. It came in front of a record crowd of 10,135 at Greene Stadium.
“I’ve got to make the most of it,” Holmes said. “The linemen were out there and they all made their blocks. (Center) Joe (Schreiber) made a really crucial block on the safety or corner.
“I did what I was supposed to do: get a touchdown.”
After Holmes put the Bucs on top, they got the ball back with a chance to ice the game. While the final drive didn’t produce any points after Tyler Keltner missed a field goal, ETSU kept the ball long enough to not give Wofford much time to win.
During that drive, one of the biggest plays of the night came when receiver Will Huzzie gained 49 yards on a reverse. The play on third down that kept the drive going was one Sanders said the coaching staff added to the playbook during the week.
“Somebody brought it up,” Sanders said. “I think they’d seen it in the NFL. We decided to put that in. We practiced it on Tuesday, practiced it on Wednesday, practiced it on Thursday. It was never necessarily a call on third down, but it was the right time to call it.”
Coming up with new plays during the week isn’t unusual for Sanders.
“There were a couple of other plays we ran that we came up with during the week,” he said. “And every now and then, I’ll get one on the fly. That’s the great thing about where we are right now offensively. If I tried to do that two years ago, in 2019, we would have had guys’ brains exploding.”
Wofford gained 246 yards, 116 on just three plays. The Terriers got a 43-yard touchdown reception from Alec Holt, a 47-yard TD run from Jamarai Broussard and quarterback Peyton Derrick’s 26-yard run set up their other score.
“Defensively we played well, but we’ve got to eliminate those three plays,” Sanders said. “We can’t have 10 guys that are right and one guy have a mental bust. We have to have all 11 guys on the same page, doing their jobs. When you get that, then you have a chance to have a really, really good football team.”
The Bucs are 5-0 for just the second time ever. They can tie the 1969 team at 6-0 on Saturday when The Citadel visits Greene Stadium. They’re ranked in the top 15 in both major FCS polls.
As always, Sanders is trying to make sure his team has tunnel vision when it comes to everything going on.
“Just take them one at a time,” he said. “Take them one game at a time and take then one day at a time. As long as they continue doing that, we have a chance to be successful.”