Folks, who had been nursing a leg injury since the preseason, saw his first action of the season Saturday night in the Bucs’ 20-14 victory over Austin Peay, and the senior linebacker keyed a defensive effort that led to a second-half shutout.
“It looked like he was really active, looked to me like he made a lot of plays,” Bucs coach Randy Sanders said. “He brings so much leadership, so much energy, so much maturity to the field. It’s easy to see. A leader has to affect people, and that’s one thing he does when he’s on the field.”
Folks, who transferred from Temple before last season, didn’t play that many snaps, but he did get ETSU’s second sack of the night. It came against a team that had not allowed a sack all season. Other times, he dropped into coverage and generally did whatever was needed of him.
“He does both very well,” Sanders said. “That’s one thing that makes him so valuable to us. He is a really good blitzer because he blitzes recklessly and he doesn’t run into people. That sounds like a little thing, but it’s amazing how many blitzers will run into people and you have to be able to find the creases.”
Folks’ return also was important because the Bucs had some players out with injuries. Most notable were safety Tyree Robinson and defensive tackle Jason Maduafokwa.
Malik McGue, a Johnson City native and former Science Hill star, scored his first ETSU touchdown after taking a direct snap and running up the middle.
“The lane was pretty much wide open for me,” said McGue, who last scored in 2016 while playing for Army. “All I had to do was get into the end zone. It had been a while since I’ve been on a team. It feels good just to be back, being with the guys. It’s wins like this that remind you how great it is to be on a team.”
McGue has played running back, slot receiver and quarterback in the wildcat for the Bucs.
“Malik’s coming on,” Sanders said. “Malik’s a good football player. If he did nothing but just catch punts the way he catches them, he’d be a really valuable member of my football team.
“We’re going to keep increasing his role and keep finding ways to get him more involved.”
It was only one hit in a game filled with big hits, but ETSU safety Artevius Smith sent a message in the second quarter.
With Austin Peay clinging to a 7-3 lead, Smith laid the hit of the night on Governors receiver Kadeem Goldbourne.
Goldbourne appeared to catch a short third-down pass to extend a drive. Instead, Smith hit him hard and clean, his helmet jarring the ball loose for an incompletion. Goldbourne was slow to get up and Austin Peay had to punt.
“He got in position and it was a good, clean hit,” Sanders said. “Any time you get a shot like that you always worry about targeting or something like that, and he did a great job.”
Smith, who played a running back, wide receiver and cornerback at ETSU before settling in at safety, had a team-high nine tackles and sealed the victory with an interception.
“I just go out and play with a lot of passion,” he said.
Jacob Saylors got the start at running back for the Bucs, and Sanders said it wasn’t a demotion for Quay Holmes.
“To me they’re co-starters,” Sanders said. “They’re two really, really good running backs. They complement each other well and I’m glad we’ve got both of them on the team.
“I think as much as anything it was reward for how Jacob has played to this point. It had nothing to do with what Quay has or has not done because he’s played very well.”
Saylors had 114 yards of offense, including his team-high seven receptions. Holmes scored what proved to be the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.