JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 27, 2018)– Sometimes there are simply no words.
Trailing by 15 points with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the No. 25-ranked ETSU football team battled back to tie Southern Conference rival Western Carolina with 10 seconds left in regulation. Then – after a missed 27-yard field goal by the Catamounts that would have ended the game in the first overtime period – the Bucs took advantage of the good fortune to ultimately win in the third overtime, 45-43, in the first edition of the Blue Ridge Border Battle Saturday evening inside William B. Greene Jr. Stadium.
The “Cardiac Bucs” – who have now won five Southern Conference games by a total of 13 points – remain tied for first place in the conference standings, improving to 5-1 in SoCon play and 7-2 overall. Meanwhile, the Catamounts dropped to 3-5, 1-5. The Bucs are off to their best start since the 1996 season and have seven wins for the first time since the 1997 season.
ETSU had led the game on and held a 12-7 advantage early in the second quarter. However, the Catamounts highly-touted offense seemed unstoppable for the next two-plus quarters of play, ultimately outscoring the Bucs 23-3 to take a 30-15 lead before ETSU collected the final 15 points of the contest to tie it in the final seconds.
In a game where both team’s combined for 1,043 yards of total offense – season-high 541 for the Bucs and 502 for the Catamounts – redshirt senior Austin Herink (Cleveland) continued to write new chapters in the storybook tale of his final season in Johnson City. Going 28-of-46 through the air for 294 yards and rushing for another 45 yards, Herink threw for a score and rushed for another, while also collecting the game-tying two-point conversion in regulation and the game-winning two-point play in the third overtime.
Some of the game’s most defining plays came courtesy of ETSU’s freshmen class. Freshman tailback Jacob Saylors (Jasper) finished with a team high 123 yards rushing on the night, including two touchdowns – one of which was a 16-yard rumble that was the final overtime score. Meanwhile, freshman tight end Nate Adkins (Knoxville) capped the game-tying scoring drive in regulation, snaring a one-yard pass from Herink with just 10 seconds left on the clock. In addition, freshman tailback Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Ga.) collected 79 yards on the ground with one rushing touchdown, while senior wide receiver Kobe Kelley (Knoxville) had a team high 84 yards receiving on the night.
Defensively, the Bucs were led by Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio), who picked up a career-high 13 tackles on the night.
HOW THEY SCORED:
- ETSU 6, Western Carolina 0: The Bucs struck quickly, scoring on the first possession of the game thanks to a nice mix of both run and pass. Covering 75 yards in 12 plays and taking 6:31 off the clock, Holmes ultimately capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter. The extra point was no good, as the ball went through the hands of holder Marion Watson (Waxhaw, N.C.) and no kick was attempted.
- ETSU 9, Western Carolina 0: After a Western Carolina sack put the Bucs at their own 4-yard line on their second offensive drive of the game,the Bucsused a 15-yard, third-down conversion run by Herink to collect a first down in the shadow of their end zone and keep the drive alive. A 15-yard personal foul penalty and strong running by both Holmes and Saylors took the ball to the Western Carolina 11-yard line. At that point, the drive stalled and the Bucs settled for a 28-yard field goal by JJ Jerman (Seymour) to make it 9-0 with 14:54 left in the first half.
- ETSU 9, Western Carolina 7: The Catamounts’ high-powered offense and talented quarterback Tyrie Adamsfinallyanswered the Bucs early scores after falling behind by nine. Adams put together an impressive 48-yard run that flipped the field, and five plays later he reached the end zone on a six-yard scramble. The extra point was good and the Bucs’ lead was cut to two with 11:24 left in the first half.
- ETSU 12, Western Carolina 7: ETSU put together its third long drive of the game in as many possessions, going 60 yards in 10 plays and ultimately collecting three more points thanks to a 27-yard field goal by Jerman. With 6:03 left in the second quarter, the Bucs led by five.
- Western Carolina 13, ETSU 12: After holding the Bucs to field goals on back-to-back possessions, the Catamounts took advantage of those defensive stops and grabbed the lead thanks to a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive. A 12-yard pass from Adams to Tyran Reynolds capped the drive with a touchdown, but Western attempted a two-point conversion that failed and ETSU trailed by one with 2:31 left in the half.
- Western Carolina 20, ETSU 12: The momentum Western Carolina began building in the second quarter extended into the first possession of the second half. Taking just seven plays to cover 71 yards in 2:44 of game play, tailback Donnavan Spencer gave the Catamounts an eight-point advantage thanks to a 29-yard scoring run. With 12:16 left in the third quarter, ETSU trailed by a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
- Western Carolina 23, ETSU 12: While it still resulted in points for Western Carolina, the Bucs’ defense did get a win to some degree by managing to keep the Catamounts out of the end zone midway through the third quarter. A 10-play, 57-yard drive ended with a field goal by Will Horton from 36 yards out and it was a two possession lead for the Catamounts with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
- Western Carolina 23, ETSU 15: After watching the Catamounts score 16 unanswered points, the Bucs finally got back on the board by going to their ground game and picking up 53 yards in seven plays. While ETSU was unable to score a touchdown, Jerman found his mark again on a field goal attempt from 30 yards out and the Bucs had cut the lead to eight points with three minutes left in third quarter.
- Western Carolina 30, ETSU 15: With a chance to stop the Catamounts on a fourth-and-one at the ETSU 43 yard line, the Bucs were unable to thwart the attempt. Two plays later, Adams ran a flea-flicker and found wide receiver Daquan Patten, who made an impressive one-handed catch for a 29-yard touchdown. With 14:20 left in regulation, the Bucs were facing their largest deficit of the game.
- Western Carolina 30, ETSU 22: Taking the ball with 6:40 left in regulation, the Bucs kept their hopes alive with a scoring drive that took just 1:38 off the clock. Moving 81 yards in eight plays, Herink capped the drive with a three-yard scoring run – and after Jerman’s extra point – the Bucs had made it a one possession game.
- ETSU 30, Western Carolina 30: The Bucs wrote another chapter in the young history of Greene Stadium, taking the ball 88 yards in just 2:46 to score on a one-yard touchdown pass from Herink to Adkins. Herink then ran a perfectly executed quarterback draw on a two-point conversion to tie the game with 10 seconds left in regulation.
- Western Carolina 37, ETSU 30: After missing a field goal that would have ended the game on their first overtime possession, the Catamounts needed just one play to score on a 25-yard pass from Adams to tight end Owen Cosenke. The extra point was good and the Bucs had to answer with a touchdown to extend the game.
- ETSU 37, Western Carolina 37: The Bucs kept the game alive in the second overtime period thanks to the efforts of Saylors, who rushed on three straight plays and covered the entire 25 yards, including a five-yard touchdown run. The extra point from Jerman was good.
- ETSU 45, Western Carolina 37: Saylors struck again on the next possession for the Bucs. On a fourth down and one play call at the 16, Saylors jumped to the outside on the play and rumbled to the end zone for a touchdown. Herink then dropped back to pass for the two-point conversion, but when not finding a player open he chose to scramble and powered in for the conversion. The Bucs led by eight after the third overtime period.
- ETSU 45, Western Carolina 43: After scoring on a four-yard pass from Adams to Cosenke that cut the Bucs’ advantage to two points, the Bucs’ defense was able to pressure Adams on the two-point conversion and forcing an incomplete pass to end the game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Western Carolina now leads the all-time series 24-23-1, and the series is now 12-12-1 in games played at ETSU. The Bucs are now 2-1 against Western Carolina since returning to the league three years ago.
- With his first quarter touchdown run, Holmes collected his 10th score of the season and became just the third ETSU player all time to collect double digit touchdowns in a season. He joins tailbacks Brandon Walker (1996, 1998, 1999) and George Searcy (1989) to reach that mark.
- The Bucs’ seven wins and five SoCon wins are the most by a Buccaneer team since 1997.
- The Bucs are now 5-2 all-time in overtime games, and have gone 3-0 in OT since returning to the field in 2015. The wins have come against Kennesaw State (2016), Mercer (2017), and now Western Carolina (2018).
- With the win Saturday night, head coach Randy Sanders joined former ETSU head coach Paul Hamilton with a school record seven wins in their first season on the Bucs’ sideline.
- ETSU is now 9-2 all-time inside Greene Stadium.
- The Bucs’ 541 yards of total offense marked a season high and was the most by an ETSU team since totaling 574 in a win over Kentucky Wesleyan back on Nov. 21, 2015 … The Blue and Gold rushed for a season-high 247 yards – the most since posting 323 on the ground against West Virginia Wesleyan back on Oct. 20, 2016.
- Jacob Saylors rushed for a career-high 123 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns (averaged 10.2 yards per carry) ... Saylors finished with 209 all-purpose yards has he added 30 yards receiving and 56 kickoff return yards.
- Austin Herink has registered eight comeback wins in his Buccaneer career – four of which have come in either the fourth quarter or overtime.
- Following his fourth-quarter touchdown pass, Herink now has 31 for his career, which is tied for sixth in ETSU history with Jeff Morgan … Following his career-high 28 passing completions, Herink passed Todd Wells for second all-time with 561.
- As a team, ETSU was 8-of-16 on third down (2-of-2 on fourth down), while the Bucs’ defense held Western Carolina to 2-of-10 on third down chances (2-of-2 on fourth down).
- ETSU was a perfect 8-of-8 inside the red zone – five touchdowns and three field goals.
- After forcing the Catamounts to punt on their opening possession, Western Carolina scored on five straight possessions (not including series before half); however, ETSU’s defense limited WCU to three straight punts to end the second half.
- Blake Bockrath’s 13 tackles not only tied a career high but it also marks his third straight game with double-digit hits … Bockrath also had a tackle for loss and combined for a sack with Titus Tucker (Lenoir, N.C.) … Tucker also finished with eight tackles and two tackles for loss.
- Tyree Robinson (Gainesville, Ga.) totaled a career-high nine tackles, while Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) added nine tackles as well.
NEXT GAME UP
The Bucs will be back on the road in Southern Conference play next week, traveling to Macon, Ga., to face Mercer at 3 p.m.
For more on ETSU football throughout the 2018 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the football link.