Defensive tackle Jason Maduafokwa and safety Tyree Robinson missed Saturday’s 20-14 victory over Austin Peay with injuries, and with a Southern Conference game against Furman coming up, the Bucs need to be as close to full strength as possible. The Paladins (2-2, 1-0) are ranked 15th in the FCS national poll.
“Without getting into it too much, neither injury is something that should last too awful long,” Sanders said. “It’s Monday so we’ll see. ... I’m hoping for the best and I wish they could get themselves healed up because obviously we need them. They make a difference to our football team.”
Saturday’s game at Paladin Stadium is set for 1 p.m.
Even without the two preseason all-conference players, the ETSU defense was up to the task against what was expected to be a high-scoring Austin Peay offense.
The Bucs (2-2, 0-1) didn’t give up a point after halftime and held the Governors to 79 yards in the second half. In addition, they got two sacks and sealed the victory with two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
The Paladins should have plenty of motivation for this one, considering how the teams’ fortunes turned last year in Johnson City.
Furman was leading 27-6 in the third quarter before Austin Herink came on in relief of Logan Marchi. Herink averaged more than 22 yards per completion while engineering a legendary comeback that ended in a 29-27 ETSU victory, one that sent the Bucs to a share of the conference championship and an FCS playoff bid.
“It was a huge win for us, no question,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t looking good for us for a pretty good while. We finally started making some plays. Austin came in and did a nice job. The defense started playing well and we had a few breaks go our way.
“I told the team last week: It’s nice to be lucky, but it’s amazing how the teams that are prepared and work hard seem to be the lucky ones.”
The Paladins’ two losses were to FBS schools Georgia State and Virginia Tech. They led Georgia State most of the way before falling 48-42 and lost to the Hokies 24-17. They blew out Mercer 45-10 last week in their SoCon opener.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us and I’m sure this is a game they have circled on their calendar for a while,” Sanders said.
Sanders turned 54 on Sunday and he celebrated by watching film and having practice. It’s just what he does because he was blessed with a birthday that falls in the middle of football season.
“Since I turned 10, every birthday I’ve had had typically involved football practice or a football game,” he said. “Since I’ve turned 10, every Thanksgiving I’ve had has involved football practice or preparing for a football game. So birthdays and Thanksgiving ... some point before I leave this earth I hope to really a get a chance to enjoy them fully, but we’re not there yet.”