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ETSU not giving up after one loss, Blackmon says

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 19, 2019 at 11:45 AM

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State redshirt senior Ben Blackmon is truly the anchor of the offensive line.

With the graduation of All-American Matt Pyke, Blackmon shifted from guard to center for the 2019 season. Behind a line that also features Tavon Matthews and Eddie Gajardo at guards and Cameron Parker and Tre’mond Shorts at tackles, the Bucs (1-2) are averaging 414 offensive yards per game. Heading into Saturday’s game at 7:30 p.m. against Austin Peay (2-1), the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Blackmon answered questions about the season and his time as an ETSU student.

Over the first three games of the season, ETSU is averaging nearly 200 rushing yards per game. As an offensive lineman, what has been the key to that?

Blackmon: “We take a lot of pride about opening up holes for our running backs. Blocking for those guys is pretty easy. Those guys know what they’re doing when they get the ball in their hands. As much pride as we take in opening up holes for them, we also take pride in protecting who’s back at quarterback.”

The big news before the season was your move from guard to center. How is the transition going?

Blackmon: “I’ve done OK, although there are things I’m working on week to week. I had a list of things in my notebook after the VMI game that I noticed I need to focus on. Every week presents a new challenge for me. Playing guard for three years to playing center for the first time, it’s hard. It’s something I’m working on every week. It’s not something that’s going to magically grasp all at once.”

How is the team’s confidence after losing the VMI game 31-24 in overtime?

Blackmon: “We believe in ourselves. It was a tough loss, a disappointing loss. We were disappointed in ourselves, the way we lost the game. We’re not going to give up after one loss. It happened and we have to move on. The thing we ask ourselves is what are we going to do now.”

When you look at the statistics from that game, it shows a balanced attack and over 450 yards of offense. Is that a positive to build on?

Blackmon: “That looks good, but we only had 24 points to show for it and that’s not good. With 450 yards, we should have put up 35-40 points.”

What has ETSU and Johnson City been like for you overall, beyond just the football field?

Blackmon: “It’s been great. I graduated in May with a degree in exercise science. Now, I’m studying strength and conditioning in the masters program. I love Johnson City. It’s definitely my home away from home. When I put the GPS on my phone and it says going home, it takes me here to Johnson City, Tennessee, not to Newberry, South Carolina. I love the area, and when I was 18 years old, it was one of the things that sold me to come to ETSU. Five years later, I love it as much as when I first came up here.”