JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State’s offense is coming of age and it’s becoming apparent that this is not just a defensive team.
Entering the season, much was said about how the Bucs’ defense would carry the team. All the they would need to be successful was to find a little offense.
Now they’re finding more than a little offense and it’s a big reason the team is on such a roll. Saturday’s 48-21 victory over The Citadel means ETSU (6-0, 3-0 Southern Conference) is likely to move even higher in the national polls.
With 288 yards on the ground and 270 through the air, ETSU seems to have found a balance that will make it tough to beat going forward. It’s the kind of diverse attack that makes coach Randy Sanders happy.
“It limits a little bit of what you see, coverage-wise, from the secondary and it limits what you see from the front, blitz-wise,” Sanders said. “It makes it much easier for the offensive line. It makes it much easier for the quarterback and everybody that’s out running routes and trying to get open. And it’s nice to have two running backs that catch the ball and run with it as well as well as Quay and Jacob do.”
Quay and Jacob are Quay Holmes and Jacob Saylors, who continue to produce at a record rate.
Holmes has rushed for 749 yards and nine touchdowns and leads the FCS in rushing. He continued his assault on ETSU’s record book with 3,460 career yards, second to Brandon Walker’s 4,095. Holmes needs to average 128 yards a game the rest of the regular season to surpass Walker.
Keep in mind the Bucs could have a playoff game (or more than one) and Holmes has one more year of eligibility after this one.
Saylors is no afterthought. He’s rushed for 401 yards and six touchdowns and actually averages more yards per carry than Holmes, 6.2 to 5.9.
The running attack was the known portion of the Bucs’ offense before the season. The passing game was a work in progress.
Quarterback Tyler Riddell has become a weapon. In three SoCon games, he’s completed 58 of 89 passes (65%) for 829 yards with five TDs and one interception.
“The one thing that Tyler’s done is he’s thrown the deep ball really well this year,” said Sanders, whose team travels to Chattanooga on Saturday. “There hasn’t been many instances where we had somebody open deep and missed them. I thought he played well. I thought there were still some plays he needed to make.”
Another reason for the Bucs’ success is the depth of their roster, which has helped soften the impact of some key injuries.
“It’s nice to have the depth we have,” Sanders said. “It’s nice to have the numbers we have. It’s nice to have the leadership we have and it’s nice to have the attitude we have.
“You know, it’s either lead, follow or get out of the way. For the most part the guys are either leading or following. We don’t have many slowing the bus down right now.”