JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 30, 2017) – Austin Herink (Cleveland) did all he could against the Furman Paladins.
ETSU’s junior quarterback passed for a school record 434 yards and collected three touchdown tosses Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium, but after taking a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter, the Buccaneers looked on as the Paladins scored 28 unanswered points and racked up 609 yards in total offense on their way to a 56-35 victory in a matchup of Southern Conference teams.
With the loss, the Bucs dropped to 2-3 overall, 1-2 in SoCon action, while Furman improved to 2-3, 1-1. ETSU will now return to Johnson City for Homecoming week and a matchup with Robert Morris at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 7, inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.
Herink, who was this week’s SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week, became the first ETSU quarterback to eclipse 300 yards in a game since Carl Meadows did so on Sept. 4, 2003, in a matchup with Concord. He also moved into sixth on the Bucs’ all-time list with 4,213 career yards, passing former Buccaneer quarterback Mark Williams.
Despite Herink’s passing numbers, the Paladins’ defense did stifle the Bucs rushing attack, which only accounted for 22 of the ETSU’s 456 yards in total offense.
The game was a wild affair, with 91 total points and 16 total plays of over 20 yards or more. In fact, Furman finished with nine of those long offensive plays and scored on six of them, while the Bucs had seven plays over 20 yards and scored on three. The Paladins also had a 47-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on an ETSU on-side attempt late in the game.
Despite falling behind by 25 points at 42-17, the Bucs never gave in and rallied to pull to within 14 at 49-35 with just over seven minutes left in the contest. The game was also an improvement for the three-year-old Bucs’ program in terms of competitiveness, after having lost to the Paladins 52-7 a year ago in Johnson City.
HOW THEY SCORED
- Furman 7, ETSU 0 – The Paladins’ offense looked impressive on the first possession of the game, mixing the run and pass on a nine-play drive that covered 75 yards in just over four minutes. Furman tailback Darius Morehead capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run and the home team took a 7-0 lead with 10:58 left in the first quarter.
- ETSU 7, Furman 7 – On its second offensive possession of the game, Herink used a big play to even the score, finding senior wide receiver Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.) with a beautifully-placed, 53-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Herink stepped up in the pocket to avoid the Paladin rush and hit Lowe in stride as he was streaking across the field. The extra point was good and with 6:06 left in the first quarter the game was tied.
- Furman 14, ETSU 7 – The Paladins quickly responded to the ETSU game-tying score by going to the air themselves. After moving the ball to the ETSU 32-yard line by using its rush attack to spread the Bucs from side-to-side, quarterback P.J. Blazejowski found tight end Andy Schumpert slipping behind the ETSU defense for a 32-yard scoring strike. With 4:02 left in the first quarter, the Paladins regained a seven-point advantage.
- ETSU 14, Furman 14 – After a fourth-down stop by the ETSU defense at its own 4-yard line stymied a Furman drive early in the second quarter, Herink and the Bucs’ offense went back to work with a drive highlighted by big plays. With passes of 19, 20 and 41 yards, the Bucs moved to the Furman 3-yard line where freshman running back Blake Rodgers (Kingsport) collected his second career scoring run. At the 9:26 mark of the second quarter, the game was tied once again.
- ETSU 17, Furman 14 – The Bucs’ defense came up with another decisive play midway through the second quarter, as linebacker Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) forced a fumble from Furman tailback Ryan DeLuca at the Paladins’ 35-yard line. Fellow safety Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas) scooped up the loose ball, returning it to the Furman 21-yard line. Later, a pass interference call against the Paladins moved the ball to the 2-yard line, but an apparent ETSU touchdown was called back on the next play due to a false start penalty on the Bucs. The ETSU drive stalled from there, but JJ Jerman (Seymour) connected on a 31-yard field goal to give the Bucs their first lead of the game with 6:22 left in the half.
- Furman 21, ETSU 17 – Furman’s offense found its footing once again after losing the lead. Using only six plays to go 75 yards in just over two minutes, Blazejowski and Schumpert connected once again on a 30-yard scoring strike to give the Paladins a four-point lead with 4:02 left in the first half.
- Furman 28, ETSU 17 – After holding the Bucs’ offense to a quick three-and-out, the Paladins had another lightning fast drive, going 70 yards in seven plays and using a 51-yard pass to Logan McCarter to set up a three-yard scoring run by Morehead. That touchdown capped the first half scoring and the Bucs trailed by 11 at the break.
- Furman 35, ETSU 17 – The Bucs received the opening kick of the second half, but were held to a three-and-out by the Paladins’ defense. After an ETSU punt, Furman went on a methodical scoring drive that covered 66 yards in nine plays. A fourth-and-two play at the Bucs’ 32-yard line was a backbreaker for ETSU, as the Paladins went to the ground and Kealand Dirks rambled untouched for the touchdown. With 9:33 left in the third quarter, the Furman lead increased to 18 points.
- Furman 42, ETSU 17 – Furman made it 28 unanswered points after having fallen behind 17-14 midway through the second quarter, as a breakdown in the ETSU defensive backfield allowed Blazejowski to find a wide open McCarter for a 64-yard touchdown score.
- Furman 42, ETSU 24 – Despite falling behind by 25, the Bucs continued to fight. Facing fourth down at the Furman 31-yard line, Herink held his ground against Furman’s pass rush and found Lowe for his second touchdown reception of the day. The extra point was good and ETSU trailed 42-24 with 14:08 left in regulation.
- Furman 42, ETSU 27 – The Bucs put more points on the board after holding Furman on downs, as Herink moved the team to the Furman 24-yard line before the drive stalled. Jerman connected again from 41 yards out with 8:16 left in regulation.
- Furman 49, ETSU 27 – In one of the more unusual plays one would see in a college football game, the Bucs attempted an on-side kick that was recovered by McCarter, who then returned it for a 47-yard kickoff score. The extra point was good and the Bucs trailed by 22 with eight minutes left.
- Furman 49, ETSU 35 – The game’s crazy finish continued on the Bucs next possession, as Herink completed a screen pass to junior wide receiver Hunter Wike (Canton, N.C.), who then used his blocking well to race 78 yards for touchdown. The two-point conversion pass from Herink to tailback Falon Lee (Macclenny, Fla.) was good and the Bucs pulled to within 14 points.
- Furman 56, ETSU 35 – After another failed on-side kick attempt, the Bucs were unable to build on their comeback, as the Paladins moved the ball 45 yards and scored on a five-yard run by Dirks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Lowe’s touchdown catch in the first quarter was the longest reception of the senior’s career. It was also the third longest offensive play for the Bucs since relaunching the program back in 2015. It was also Lowe’s first 100-yard receiving game of his career, as he finished with 105 yards and two scores on the day.
- With Bockrath’s forced fumble and Hunter’s recovery midway through the second quarter, the Bucs have now forced a turnover in 10 straight games dating back to last season.
- The Bucs trail the all-time series with Furman, 25-7. The Bucs have lost five straight to the Paladins and eight of their last 12.
- The Bucs’ 95-yard scoring drive in the second quarter was the second longest since the Bucs’ return to football three years ago. The longest was a 97-yard drive against Kentucky Wesleyan in 2015.
- With his three extra points on Saturday, Jerman moved into fifth on the Bucs’ all-time list with 52 extra points, passing former Bucs’ kicker Herbie Campbell.
- Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.) averaged 44.2 yards per punt (221 yards total) with two inside the 20 (one inside the 10), while allowing zero punt returns on his five punts.
- Junior defensive lineman Tremond Ferrell (Washington, Ga.) finished with a career-high nine tackles.
- ETSU junior linebacker Dylan Wiegel (Pickerington, Ohio) led the Bucs with 10 tackles on the day, marking the 19th time in his career he has posted double-digit stops.
NEXT GAME UP
ETSU returns to Johnson City for Homecoming next week, as the Bucs host non-conference foe Robert Morris at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 inside William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium.