It was a night a dozen years in the making, and while the final score wasn’t what East Tennessee State University football fans had hoped for, just about everything else exceeded expectations.
A standing room only crowd, officially reported as 8,217, witnessed the first East Tennessee State football game at the Bucs’ temporary home, Kermit Tipton Stadium at Science Hill High School, Thursday Sept. 3. The Bucs fell to the Owls of Kennesaw State 56-16.
The ETSU athletic department worked to create a festival atmosphere, building anticipation for the game for more than a year. That anticipation culminated in a game day atmosphere that was as much an opportunity for celebration as a chance to watch a sporting competition.
The game started off well for the Bucs, and Buccaneer fans got their first chance to cheer a score by the home team since Nov. 22, 2003 when kicker J.J. Herman knocked through a 36-yard field goal with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter. The teams battled back and forth through the first half, with the Bucs Jajuan Stinson scoring the first touchdown of the new season for ETSU with 6:42 remaining in the first half.
The game was attended by two college coaching legends. Former University of Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer was instrumental in helping ETSU start football anew. Kennesaw State, which was playing its first-ever game, received similar support from former University of Georgia Coach Vince Dooley, who watched from the visitors’ stands.