JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 22, 2018) -- Coming off back-to-back road games against option-style teams, the ETSU football team finally returns home to host Western Carolina this Saturday in the “Blue Ridge Border Battle” rivalry game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. in Greene Stadium.
The 25th-ranked Bucs faced the media on Monday to recap last week’s road setback at No. 7 Wofford while looking ahead to this weekend’s home game versus the Catamounts.
Head coach Randy Sanders, redshirt senior linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.), redshirt junior wide receiver Anthony Spagnoletti (Bealeton, Va.) and redshirt senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) represented the Bucs at this week’s press conference inside Greene Stadium.
Below are comments from Coach Sanders, Gatewood, Spagnoletti and Herink.
HEAD COACH RANDY SANDERS
ON PLAYING HARD AT WOFFORD
The guys played hard. They competed. They battled. That's one thing that this group of young men have done week in and week out. They come to play. They are still learning how to win. We're still learning how to make smart plays. Sometimes we get caught up a little bit in trying to make too many big plays instead of just making smart plays. It's smart plays over, and over, and over that win football games. We had won a couple of games on the road in a row. It would've been nice to have kept that streak going. We weren't able to do it. Now, we have to finish this season out right.
ON WOFFORD TAKING CONTROL IN THE SECOND HALF
I don't know that they made that many adjustments. They just “field-positioned” us to death. Our defense was able to hold on a few possessions but we weren’t able to get any first downs offensively. We then turned it over – had the interception and fumble – then we roughed the punter. We just weren't able to ever flip the field position in the third quarter.
That's one of the reasons I always personally like to defer, because you then get the ball to start the third quarter. Usually, you can prevent something like that from happening. We just weren't able to flip it, and that's a credit to them, their coaches and their players.
ON THE PENALTIES SATURDAY AT WOFFORD
I don't necessarily think it's discipline because I don't think we're an undisciplined team. Wofford was a good environment and they have a good football team. Sometimes when you're playing against guys that are big, strong and fast, sometimes your mind gets to thinking about the wrong thing. I think that was the case. They're (Wofford) a very veteran football team – they have a lot of juniors and seniors – a lot of guys that's been in the weight room for three, four, five years. Not that we haven't been in the weight room, but we haven't been in it like they have. Give us a couple more years, we'll be there, but we weren't there yet.
ON WESTERN CAROLINA
They have the ability to move the ball and score a lot of points on offense, and then defensively, they are very multiple in what they do. They have lot of new starters (on defense) from what they had last year. They have a couple of all-conference offensive lineman, an all-conference quarterback, an all-American tight end and an all-conference punter. They are a good football team.
I haven't found the easy game yet in this league. I am still looking for them. I guess maybe we were one of them in the past, I don't know. Hopefully we're not anymore, but there's not many easy games in this league. We have to show up and be ready to play. It's game nine. That's our thing. It doesn't really matter who we're playing, it's the next one. If we do what we should do, play the way we can, then we'll be fine.
ON NOT HAVING TO PLAY THE OPTION THIS WEEK
It's been challenging the last couple of weeks with Citadel and Wofford and what they do. Not only do they run the option, but they're good at it and they have good players they're doing it with. It's good to get back to a little bit more of a conventional offense. I think some of our offensive guys will appreciate it as much as anything else because you get more opportunities. The clock isn't running. The clock isn't ticking down and you have a few more possessions in the game, so it's good to play a more conventional offense.
Western Carolina poses a lot of challenges with what they do and who they do things with. I know it’s kind of a broken record, but we're going to have to play well. It's a challenge each week, but we're looking forward to the challenge.
ON PLAYING WESTERN CAROLINA AFTER FACING BACK-TO-BACK OPTION TEAMS IN THE CITADEL AND WOFFORD
I think probably stylistically it may fit our defense a little better. Their offense is definitely much more similar to what they see from us in practice than what Wofford or Citadel does. So it may play into our hands a little bit better that way. But you have to be careful what you ask for because they do have the ability to make plays. Whenever you play a quarterback that has ability to do the things he can do, it's scary stuff. So we're going to have to play well.
I think there is possibly a little more margin for error offensively, because you get the ball a few more times. Hopefully you're not getting that because they have scored fast. Typically you don’t have the seven, eight minutes possessions that eat up the clock like what you do from Wofford or Citadel.
ON TYRIE ADAMS
He's going to make his play. You know that going in. You're not going to shut a guy like that down. We have to keep him under control. We can't let what happened last week with him at Mercer happen here – where he ran for about 180 yards, and throws for close to 400. That's the type of performance we can’t let happen this week. He may get his yards passing, he may get his yards rushing, but we can't let him do both. Obviously, that's a challenge. That's a challenge for all our guys on defense. It's a challenge for Coach (Billy) Taylor. It's a challenge for our guys on offense to not to let him get the ball in that situation. We need to be able to play our game offensively where we can try to make him a little more one-dimensional.
ON WHERE GAMES CHANGE
Games usually turn on just a few plays. You never know when that play is going to happen and you never know who's going to make the play. There's an old saying, "The play doesn't care who makes it." It doesn't matter.
One of the runs there while we were backed up, Quay (Holmes) was so close to coming out of there, and it would have probably been a 30, 40-yard run, but they have a guy that's able to reach out and get his hand on his foot. It kind of just tripped him up, and we gained four or five yards, but it really should have been a 30 or 40-yard run. That's a great tribute to their guy for making that play, but it's also a little bit of an indictment on us on not blocking him better than we did. It's one of those rare occasions where you guess exactly right as a play caller on what you're going to get, and we got it. We had the perfect play, and it was just so close, but that's football. That's where we're at. You always hear about it being a game of inches. Well, those are the inches you talk about right there.
AUSTIN GATEWOOD – REDSHIRT SENIOR LINEBACKER
ON WOFFORD BEING A WAKE-UP CALL
It woke us up a little bit. Coach Sanders talks about you play like you prepare during the week. I'm not saying we had a bad week, but it probably wasn't our best week of preparation. It probably acted as a little wake-up call – we might have needed it. It's good for us. We'll get back at it on Tuesday and have a better week of preparation.
ON IF WOFFORD WAS A WINNABLE GAME
Absolutely, especially after watching the film yesterday. I think we had around 25 missed tackles. We can't have that and expect to win. To have had made the mistakes that we had and still had a chance to win the game, that's good. We have to make sure we don't look back and regret the certain plays that we might've messed up on… that game is over. We have to move on and get ready for Western Carolina.
ON SLOWING DOWN TYRIE ADAMS
We have to make sure everybody does their job. We have to make sure we contain him with the pass rush. Then when we get there, we have to wrap him up and not let him squeak out and get 30 yards or something or extend the play at least. It just comes down to the basic fundamentals – get there, tackle, wrap up and wait for other people to come help.
ON FACING WESTERN CAROLINA’S OFFENSE
I know they had a lot of yards of offense last week (at Mercer) and they have great players on offense. They have a great quarterback. Coach said they have a great offensive line and skill guys too, but I mean it's going to require us to have a great week of preparation starting Tuesday, and then at the end of the day we have to make sure everybody does their job every play.
ANTHONY SPAGNOLETTI – REDSHIRT JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER
ON THE MISTAKES MADE AT WOFFORD
Mistakes are going to be made. It's not just him (quarterback Austin Herink). There are 11 guys on the field. I know I made some mistakes. Sunday is one of those days we watch film. We try to correct it. We try to learn from it, so then the next game going forward we know what to do and how to do it. There were times some mistakes were a little more costly than others, but that comes with playing a really good team and us just not preparing like we should have. Like they mentioned earlier, we just have to prepare right and we'll be fine.
ON PREPARING TO WIN
It’s all about preparation. I think if we prepare like we're supposed to, then we know these next three games are winnable. We know we're a good team, and so are the teams we're about to play. We have to go out there and do it. Saturday we got hit with a loss. We know that can happen during a season. As long as we just go out there and prepare, starting tomorrow, I think we'll be fine.
ON CHANCES FOR PASSING GAME SATURDAY VS. WESTERN CAROLINA
They are giving up almost 300 yards passing, so as a receive that’s good to hear. But like Coach said, they have athletes on both sides of the ball. We’re not going take them lightly no matter how many points or yards they give up a game. It's nice to know that we're seeing an opponent this week that we're seeing for third time. We remember what happened last year when we went there, and like Austin (Herink) also said, the second half was not anything like that first half. We all remember that and we know exactly what we have to do come Saturday.
AUSTIN HERINK – REDSHIRT SENIOR QUARTERBACK
ON STYLES DIFFERING FROM LAST TWO WEEKS TO THIS WEEK
It is different. Like Coach said, we're going to have the ball a little bit more most likely, so the challenge with that is to execute at a higher level than we have been, and keep playing the brand of football that we try to play. Obviously, the preparation I think for them will be a lot different on the defensive side of the ball, but for us, it's just continuing as always to maximize each possession and to know your alignment and assignment and get the job done.
ON THE WAKE-UP CALL AT WOFFORD
I think we may have needed it. We obviously try to prepare the same each week, but just like anything, we can't replicate the exact same thing every single week so I think we may have needed that to get refocused and to get things rolling again. I think we're all excited for the opportunity this week, and to go back out there and to get better.
ON WESTERN CAROLINA
They're a good opponent. We played them twice now. This will be our third game against Western, and obviously, last year was not the outcome that we wanted. It was a close game in the first half and watching the second half, it was a little painful and frustrating, because we had that game in a position where we could go win it… it just got out of control pretty quick. They have some dynamic players on offense. They also have some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well. I'm excited to see the game plan that coach and the staff put together, and we're all excited to go out there and execute it.
ON FINISHING THE SEASON STRONG
Each season you're remembered for how you finish. Obviously, we started the season the way we wanted to, but there’s still a quarter of the season remaining and we need to finish it strong.
This challenges us to finish the way we started to finish strong. I know in our off-season program, the focus is to always finish. I think we're all excited because we know that we've prepared for this moment. This is how everything in our program's set up is to finish strong. So we're ready to prepare, we're ready to keep doing the things we've been doing, to finish this season the right way and to keep moving ETSU football in the right direction.
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