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Bucs 'still have a lot of football to play'

Joe Avento • Oct 1, 2019 at 1:30 PM

JOHNSON CITY — The record isn’t what he would like it to be, but East Tennessee State football coach Randy Sanders insists his team isn’t that far away.

“I look at last year’s tape and I still think we’re a better football team right now than we were last year,” Sanders said Monday at Greene Stadium. “Now, results matter. That’s why they keep score. We’ve got to get better results, no question about it. That just comes down to making a play or two here and there.”

The Bucs approach the midway point in the season 2-3, 0-2 in the Southern Conference. Their latest outing, a 17-10 loss at No. 15 Furman, proved every bit as frustrating as the overtime loss to VMI a few weeks ago.

“It was a close football game,” Sanders said. “It was a play or two here. But that’s kind of where we are right now.

“We’re anywhere from two to four, five plays from being 4-1. But as it is, we haven’t found a way to make those plays. We still have a lot of football to play. We’re still a good football team.”

Some of those deciding plays have come with self-inflicted mistakes. Sanders said in talking with his assistant coaches, a common theme began to emerge. At times, players are getting into trouble by forgetting their own assignments and trying to help others.

“I keep telling the guys, ‘Just do your job. You can’t do somebody else’s job. We have to get 11 guys doing their job and you have to trust your teammate to do his,’ ” Sanders said. “We still have 10, 12 or 14 plays in the course of a game and sometimes it jumps up to bite you on the butt.”

Last year the Bucs went 6-2 in the SoCon to share the league championship with Furman and Wofford. Those six wins came by an average of 2.67 points. None was by more than a field goal. A common comment was that ETSU was six plays away from going 0-8 in the conference, yet the team figured out how to win those close games.

This year, the two losses were both by a touchdown, and a play in each one could have changed the outcome.

Sanders said after the Furman game he had a conversation with his brother, who compared a football season to a round of golf.

“There’s times in golf where you hit it in the woods, you knock it out, you knock it on the green to 30 feet and you make a 30-footer for par,” he said. “There’s other times where you knock it right down the middle of the fairway and you hit it to 18 feet and you three-putt. Last year we could hit it anywhere and make a 30-footer for par. Right now we’re not making all the par putts we need to.”

It doesn’t get any easier this week with Wofford prepared to visit Greene Stadium. The Terriers (2-2, 1-1) beat VMI 51-36 last week.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

“They’re a good football team,” Sanders said. “It’s going to be a challenge. I’m sure we’re going to get their best shot, the best they can bring to the table. I expect them to get our best shot.

“Our challenge is to just keep getting better, keep improving and see where we can go from where we are right now.”


Bucs safety Artevius Smith was chosen the SoCon’s defensive player of the week for his performance against Furman.

The senior got his second interception of the season, and his jarring hit on Corey Watkins caused a fumble that changed the momentum of the game in the second quarter.

It was the second weekly award of Smith’s career. He also won it last year for his performance against Mercer.

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