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Sanders' Bucs still ‘figuring out how to win’

Joe Avento • Oct 21, 2019 at 10:21 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Winning can become a habit, as last year’s East Tennessee State football team proved.

This year, the Bucs are showing the reverse can be true, and that’s something coach Randy Sanders is trying desperately to change.

“We’ve talked about last year, about the team figuring out how to win, learning how to win,” Sanders said Monday. “I think this team is still trying to learn how to win. Each team is a little bit different. Each team has its own unique formula. Right now, we’re playing hard but we have to figure out how to make the plays to win.

“The difference between winning and losing is such a fine line. It’s just a few plays, especially in a conference as competitive as this one is.”

Sanders’ team is still looking for its first Southern Conference victory heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Samford. Last year, the Bucs (2-5, 0-4) won six conference games, all by three points or fewer. This year, three of their four losses have been by a touchdown or less.

“When you win a championship, you’re a game that’s circled on the schedule,” Sanders said. “We have to find a way to get the results.”

When he watches the game films, as long as he doesn’t see the scoreboard, Sanders says he likes what he sees.

“I see a team that plays hard,” he said. “They’re competing, battling. If anything, they’re trying to do too much. This team has desire to win.”

Last year, the team’s best characteristic was the ability to take advantage of the other teams’ mistakes. Sanders pointed out that the opposition hasn’t presented as many of those chances.

“We haven’t had many of those fortunate breaks,” he said. “It’s up to a team to make its own breaks, but we haven’t had any of them happen.

“I told the players they need to look at what they can do better because we as coaches are looking at what we can do better. I know I’ve certainly done a lot of that the last few weeks. I think all our coaches have. We’re all trying to figure out how to get this thing done.”


The Bulldogs (3-4, 2-3) enter Saturday’s game having lost two straight.

Quarterback Chris Oladokun has thrown for 15 touchdowns, tied for the SoCon lead, and has completed a league-leading 64% of his passes He’s been intercepted twice.

Oladokun is trying to fill the big shoes of Devlin Hodges, last season’s winner of the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision while becoming the leading passer in FCS history. Hodges quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers to a win against the Los Angeles Chargers a couple of weeks ago.