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Bucs eager to play spoiler on Terriers’ homecoming

Joe Avento • Oct 20, 2018 at 10:30 AM

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — East Tennessee State gets a chance to prove it’s for real when it puts its perfect Southern Conference record on the line against Wofford on Saturday at Gibbs Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.

ETSU is in just its third year back in SoCon football action since dropping the program in 2003, yet the Bucs (6-1, 4-0) find themselves alone atop the league, ranked 21st nationally and riding a five-game winning streak. No. 12 Wofford (4-2, 3-1), the defending SoCon champion, is looking up at the Bucs in the standings.

“It’s nice knowing going into a game that there is a target on your back and the other team really does want to beat you because they look at you as a threat,” ETSU receiver Anthony Spagnoletti said. “We know it’s tough. We know we play in a really tough conference and we know that in order to win the conference, we’re going to have to play really good football.”

Despite the enormity of the game, ETSU coach Randy Sanders continues to try to keep his players grounded.

“We get 11 guaranteed opportunities to play,” he said. “If you have to find motivation to play, something’s wrong with you to start with. It’s a game that we put ourselves in a position to make it a big game. As I said after the game (at The Citadel), we have to finish. We have to finish this season. That’s going to be the critical part.”

HOMECOMING

The Bucs are Wofford’s homecoming opponent, a distinction to which the visiting team usually takes exception.

“Obviously I’m going to push that narrative,” Sanders said early in the week. “I don’t know that it’s always the case. I remember one year at Tennessee we played Miami on homecoming and they beat the brakes off of us. Any time you beat somebody on their homecoming, it’s a little more satisfying.”

The Terriers have won 12 of their last 14 home games, but the losses came in their past two homecoming games.

COMING OFF A LOSS

Wofford suffered a 34-14 loss to Furman last week, a result that surprised observers all over the league.

“We all know what Furman did to them, so they’re going to be really, really hungry to play us and beat us,” Spagnoletti said. “As long as we match that mentality, I think we’ll be all right.”

AT A LOSS

The Bucs lead the country in tackles for loss.

Dylan Weigel leads the SoCon with 14 tackles for loss, one of five ETSU players in the top 10 in that category. The others are Nasir Player, Jason Maduafokwa, Jared Folks and Zack Yancey.

Folks leads the SoCon with six sacks. Maduafokwa and Player are also in the top 10.

THE RUNNING TERRIERS

Wofford has three of the top 10 rushers in the league. Preseason All-America fullback Andre Stoddard leads the conference with 548 yards. Lennox McAfee gets 71.7 per game and quarterback Joe Newman averages 55.8.

As a team, the Terriers run for an average of 364 yards per game, third in the country.

PLAYOFFS?

Nobody has said the word, at least publicly, but a win on Saturday would put the Bucs in position to think about a possible FCS playoff berth. The last time they made the postseason was 1996, when they beat Villanova and lost to Montana.

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