ETBU

KJ Kelley (26) after the first of two pick-sixes against Belhaven.

MARSHALL, Texas - Keyed by three defensive touchdowns, the East Texas Baptist University football team dominated Belhaven University, 44-16, in Ornelas Stadium for the first time since November 2019. ETBU is now 2-0 on the season and in the American Southwest Conference.

BU outgained the Tigers in total yards of offense (361-315), which included 217 yards rushing. ETBU would record 219 yards passing and would finished with a higher yards per play rate (5.63-4.95).

Aaron Brown went 12-for-22 for 159 yards and a touchdown pass while scoring one touchdown and having six rushes for 38 yards. Jalen Blanton finished with four receptions for 62 yards while Cris Williams caught the touchdown pass. Cornelius Merchant had a rushing touchdown.

ETBU’s defensive players would spark the Tigers win. Leading the way were 10 tackles plus two pick sixes by KJ Kelley and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Donovan Graham. Justice Henson would record nine tackles while James Wright IV (seven tackles) and Josh Reed each recorded a sack. Kenneth Bradley would also record an interception.

The Blazers first drive led to a punt that landed at ETBU’s eight-yard line. However, ETBU would fumble their first snap as the ball went out of bounds for a safety. BU would drive to the ETBU 29 before they punted the ball. ETBU’s second drive would start off well as they reached midfield. A holding penalty and a fumble ended the drive but BU’s third drive ended when they failed to get a first down. ETBU then followed with a three-and-out as the first quarter ended with the Blazers up, 2-0.

On the first play in the second quarter, Kelley picked off BU’s third down pass and ran it back 94 yards for a pick-6 giving ETBU a 7-2 lead. BU would be unfazed as they would answer with a four-play 70-yard drive ending on a 57-yard touchdown reception and a 9-7 lead. ETBU would finally put together an offensive drive going six plays for 71 yards. Brown found Cris Williams for seven yards for the first offensive touchdown of the day to lead 14-9. After punts on the next two drives, BU would elect to go for it on fourth down and two. Stuffed at the line and just an inch short of the first down, ETBU took over and ran out the clock taking a 14-9 lead into the half.

ETBU capitalized on their opening drive in the second half going 70-yards on four plays as Merchant found the end zone from six yards out. ETBU then forced a BU punt and received the ball at their three yard line. Once again, BU’s defense forced an ETBU turnover as they would recover a fumble and score to cut the lead to 21-16. Two punts later, ETBU would take the ball and faced fourth-and-seven at the 19. Despite an incomplete pass, ETBU received another chance following a BU pass interference penalty. Then, in the same drive, ETBU faced a fourth-and-goal as Brown snuck into the endzone for the touchdown. Three plays later as Belhaven started their drive, Kelley recorded his second pick-six of the game goring 52-yards for the 35-16 advantage after three quarters.

ETBU would get another interception on BU’s next possession just two plays as Bradley gave the Tigers the ball at the Blazer 35-yard line. ETBU then converted a field goal by Alberto Garcia from 34-yards out making it, 38-16. The final ETBU defensive touchdown came from Graham as he would recover a fumble and return it 31 yards for a 44-16 lead with 10:05 left in the game. ETBU’s defense would then keep the Blazers off the board the rest of the way preserving the 44-16 win.

Off next week, ETBU will head out to Pineville, La., to take on the Wildcats of Louisiana College on Feb. 27, 2021. Kickoff will be at 1:00 PM.

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