JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 1, 2018)– Following its game over in-state rival Chattanooga last Saturday, the ETSU football team met the media to recap the win over the Mocs and preview this weekend’s Homecoming game versus Gardner-Webb.
Head coach Randy Sanders, redshirt senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio) were brought to Monday’s press conference inside Greene Stadium to look back on last week’s win and look ahead to this Saturday’s Homecoming game with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Below are comments from Coach Sanders, Herink and Bockrath.
HEAD COACH RANDY SANDERS
Gardner-Webb doesn't have a good record, but they have a good football team. When you look at the teams they have played, they are playing some pretty good competition. Honestly, I was a little disappointed when I turned on the tape and saw what I saw. I was hoping they weren't as good as they are. They're doing a nice job. They're solid on defense. Their offense is getting better. Offensively, they look a lot like us. They're improving each week. We're going to have to go out and play well. We're not going to just show up and win this game because we're ETSU. We have to go out and play well.
ON GARDNER-WEBB’S YOUTH
They are young but we're at game six now, so some of those young guys aren't near as young as they were at the beginning of the season. Once you get some experience – just like us talking about Nate Adkins and Jacob Saylors – they're two true freshman, and are playing a lot for us. They're much better football players now than they were two, three weeks ago, or especially when we played Mars Hill.
There's no question, when you're 18 (years old), you're not as good a football player as you're going to be when you're 21 years old just because they haven't been in the weight room for four years. They haven't been through the battles and everything else. So I don't know what we'd do to exploit it, because honestly, it's not like we're so talented or so experienced offensively that we can do a lot of different formations, motions, stuff like moving people around to create problems. Don’t get me wrong, we have some experienced players on offense, but they haven’t been in our system for that long.
ON GETTING USED TO WINNING
We're in newfound territory a little bit. I think they like winning. I think they like that a lot. I certainly like it. I want us to get used to it. It doesn't just happen on Saturday, and that's what I'm trying to get these guys to understand. The more you win, the harder it becomes to win because suddenly you become a game that's circled on the schedule instead of a game that's significant because you're somebody's Homecoming.
It becomes harder and harder to win, so you have to learn to prepare. You have to learn how to work for it. It's new for a lot of them. We can get there from here, but it's not going to happen this week. We're not going to magically understand it all by the time we get to the field on Saturday.
ON GETTING THE TEAM FOCUSED AFTER A PAIR OF BIG WINS
If you're going to be a championship-type football team or a championship-type football player, it doesn't just happen the two or three hours a day when you're with the football coaches. It has to be part of what you do. It has to be part of who you are.
Obviously, they're here to be students and they're young people with lives outside of football, but if football doesn't have a high priority, it doesn't happen. You have to get a team full of guys that want to win football games. It has to be one of the main priorities each day during this time of year. If you're not spending time studying your playbook, studying the game plan, looking at tape on your own, reviewing the scouting report before you start spending time with the coaches and come to practice… and then watch the practice film afterwards so that when you come in the next day, you're not watching it for the first time with your coach. Once you get to that point, you have the chance to be a really good football player. You have chance to be a championship-type football player and team.
ON TAKING ONE GAME AT A TIME APPROACH
We had game one, then we had game two, game three and I tried telling them, the opponent has no name. It's not about who we're playing, it's about us. We have 11 opportunities guaranteed to us, so we can't waste an opportunity to go out, play well and have fun with it. We work a long time for these games. We have to be mature in our approach. We have to go out and handle our business as we’re supposed to on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
We need to keep trying to improve each day, because good football teams are ones that continue to get better throughout the season. It's all a process with these guys. We're somewhat in new territory with them. They're eager, they're hungry, they want to do well, and we have to try to show them how to do well, direct them the right way. Hopefully they'll listen and respond.
ON THE RUN GAME
I think we're fortunate we have two pretty good backs right now. Quay (Holmes) and Jacob (Saylors) are good running backs. The good thing is they're both young and they're only going to get better. Our run game has evolved from what I saw on film from last year. We're doing a lot more things in the run game and using different schemes. I think the offense has taken to those very well. I think the tight ends (Evan Wick and Nate Adkins), what they've been able to do blocking has certainly made us better. Haddon Hill is kind of Mr. Versatile for us. He plays tight end, full back, a little bit of everything. He's had a big part in improving our run game. Then our receivers have done a nice job blocking down field.
ON PUTTING TEAMS AWAY
Our team has grit and they have fight. You can see the effort. You can see the heart. We don't always play smart, but we're playing hard. Once we learn how to play smart and hard, then we have a chance to be a really good football team. I think we're a good team right now. I think we will get better as it goes. We have to continue playing smart.
Last Saturday we got up 17-0, and I felt like for a little bit in the third quarter, we had too many guys looking at the clock, trying to get the game over instead of playing to win. We need to go put them away. We're trying to wish wins into play. We're trying to hope they happen, instead of making it happen. We had that lead (last week vs. Chattanooga) and really had a chance to put that game away and enjoy that second half. We were trying to get the game over instead of going and winning the football game. It ended up being a nail-biter at the end. After last week’s game, I think they know a little bit about what we can do and what's possible. Now, it's just a matter of how do we do it and make it happen. You can't hope it happens. You have to go make it happen.
ON BEING UDEFEATED IN SOCON PLAY
Obviously, I get a lot of satisfaction out of the wins. I enjoy winning. I don't coach football for wins and losses, just like I don't fish just to catch fish. Sometimes just being out on a lake in the boat, or being up in the mountains with a fly rod in your hand is the reason you fish. If it all revolves around catching fish, you're in it for the wrong business. Same thing with coaching football. If you just do it for the wins and losses, you're going to be disappointed most of the time, it seems like.
It's hard to win football games. I coach for the relationships, for the camaraderie, for trying to help young men develop and grow, but it is nice when you get to help young men develop and grow and win football games. It makes it more rewarding. It makes the Diet Pepsi taste better. Winning makes everything easier. It makes everything better.
ON BEING COMFORTABLE WITH BOTH QUARTERBACKS
We're blessed to have two good players at the position and I feel comfortable with both of them, like the other night when Austin came out. When he went down, I was waiting on the trainer to give me a report. I was comfortable with Logan in there. It's nice to be in that position.
ON HOW AUSTIN HANDLED THE QB SITUATION
The way the whole competition went with Austin and Logan I think sent a pretty strong message to the team that you may be competing in your position. Here's a guy that started for three years who’s competing for his at quarterback. If he's handling it the way he is, I better handle it the right way, too. Austin was very disappointed when I named Logan starter. I would have been disappointed had he not been upset about it. But he didn't let his emotions show. He didn't let it affect what he was trying to do on the team. That's what a mature guy has to do. That's what a true team guy has to do. It's okay to be upset. You can't take your frustrations out in the locker room, or you can't become a negative guy whether it's in the locker room or on social media. You have to be a team guy and I think he handled that very well. At the same time, I think Logan's handled it pretty wellsince we've made the change and gone back to Austin.
AUSTIN HERINK – REDSHIRT SENIOR QUARTERBACK
ON THE 4-1 START (3-0 IN SOCON)
This is obviously the best start since we've been back. We're really excited about it, and it'd be nice to have some time to reflect on that, but we really won't get that until the end of the season. I think we're happy with where we're at, but we’re not satisfied with where we are as a team and as an offense. We need to continue building upon that and make sure our next six games we have similar outcomes.
ON BEATING CHATTANOOGA
That game means a lot because of the rivalry between our two schools and we're still building that with us being a new program. For us to get a win against them was really big and I think it means a lot to the older guys on the team, because we've seen where we've came from. That first time we played Chattanooga we got ran off the field, so to go out there in our last game against them was pretty cool to come out on top.
I think Gardner Webb is a really good opponent. A few years ago we played them, and they did pretty much whatever they wanted against us. If we don't come out focused, we're not to the point where we can just roll out there and can someone right now. They're a really good opponent and we definitely respect them. Like Blake (Bockrath) said, this is opportunity number six.
We really don't look at the opponent in terms of what their jersey says, or what their helmet looks like. We have to focus on being the best we can be, reading our keys, and doing our assignments. That's how you progress and go through a season by not getting caught up in everything around you. I think that will be the focus this week… just getting back to doing what we need to do and prepare the way we need to prepare. When Saturday comes we'll be ready to go.
ON WINNING CLOSE GAMES
I think that does speak to the leadership on this team and with the coaches, because a lot of us have been here for a while and this isn't our first season playing so I think that bodes well for us. Last year it was kind of the reverse with some of those games – and for whatever reason – the ball didn't bounce our way. Being in these close games helps so if the moment arises again, when someone needs to make a play in a critical situation, we'll be able to make it.
ON THE PROGRESSION OF THE PROGRAM
It's exciting to see the stages of how we have evolved as a program. I think that first year we were just trying to get our feet wet and see what happens. Then we got those first two victories to start the 2016 season and that meant a lot for the program. Last year, we were kind of getting used to being in SoCon. I think this year people are starting to see us as a legitimate opponent when they have to play a whole 60-minute game.
BLAKE BOCKRATH – REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
ON THE PLAY FROM THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Our defensive line is a lot to handle. If I'm getting blocked or I have a double team on me, then someone's going to be open in our defense. It's not that we're always going to try to have one person open. You have to beat the man in front of you and you can't depend on someone being free every play. But when that happens, we have to capitalize on it.
ON THE DEFENSIVE ENDS
Nasir (Player) gets a lot of the focus is on him. Teams have to play in and around him because he is such a big deal, and that gives us the opportunity to make some plays. Jason (Maduafokwa) is on my side and he gets to take up some blocks from me as well, so that helps free me up to make some plays.
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