Donovan Manuel (copy)

ETSU’s Donovan Manuel (30) is swarmed by his teammates after his game-clinching interception against Samford. Manuel is the only player in the Southern Conference with two interceptions and two sacks.

Getting off to a good start will be important for East Tennessee State against The Citadel, Bucs football coach Randy Sanders says.

ETSU and the Bulldogs square off Saturday at 1 p.m. at Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Citadel’s clock-consuming option offense limits opportunities for the opposition. The Bulldogs lead the Southern Conference in rushing, but that hasn’t translated into wins. They’re 0-7 overall, dating to the fall, and 0-3 in SoCon games.

“If you get behind a team like this, it plays right into their hand,” Sanders said. “That’s exactly what they want. If you can get them behind, it makes them play to your hand a little bit, especially as the game goes on. The later it gets, if you can be ahead by a couple scores you’ve got a great chance of taking them out of doing exactly what they want to do offensively.”

ETSU (1-1), coming off a 17-13 loss to Furman, played its first two games at home.

BULLDOG BITES

The Citadel is last in the SoCon after a 21-14 loss to Western Carolina.

Jaylan Adams, a former star a Science Hill, is the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. He’s averaging 119 rushing yards per game this spring.

The Citadel will be missing four players as part of a punishment for a violation of NCAA rules at the campus bookstore.

Thirty-three student-athletes were found to have used scholarship funds meant to pay for books, haircuts and uniforms to buy items not allowed.

Twenty-six football players must each serve a one-game suspension, and the team is sitting four players for each game until all the suspensions are served.

Against Western Carolina, the Bulldogs played without SoCon defensive player of the year Willie Eubanks III, who suffered a shoulder injury against Chattanooga. The linebacker’s status for Saturday is uncertain.

BUCS BY THE NUMBERS

Quay Holmes is averaging rushing 96 yards per game, second in the SoCon, and has scored three touchdowns.

Juliun Lane-Price is averaging a SoCon-best 20.1 yards per reception on his eight catches.

Safety Mike Price is third in the league in tackles at 9½ per game, and linebacker Donovan Manuel is the only player in the conference with two interceptions and two sacks.

DISCIPLINED DEFENSE

Sanders has always talked about having his players simply do the jobs assigned to them on each and every play. When someone tries to do another’s job, it leads to broken plays.

That will be true against the Bulldogs’ option offense, which tempts players to leave assignments to try to make a stop.

“When you try to do too much, that’s when they score,” ETSU cornerback Karon Delince said. “A triple-option team wants you to do more than you are capable of doing and after that, that is when their big plays come in.”

LAST MEETING

The Citadel topped the Bucs 31-27 at Greene Stadium in 2019.

ETSU had a chance to win, facing a first-and-goal from the Citadel 6, but Trey Mitchell threw three incompletions before hitting on a fourth-down pass to tight end Nate Atkins, who was brought down just short of the goal line.

The Bulldogs had taken the lead on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Rainey to Raleigh Webb.