JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 12, 2018)– With the ETSU football team coming off its bye week, the 17th-ranked Buccaneers met the media to preview this Saturday’s regular season finale against Samford.
Head coach Randy Sanders, redshirt senior linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.), redshirt senior quarterback Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) and redshirt senior linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) represented the Bucs at this week’s press conference inside Greene Stadium.
Below are comments from Coach Sanders, Gatewood, Herink and Weigel.
HEAD COACH RANDY SANDERS
ON NOT HAVING THE RHYTHM BROKEN UP DURING THE BYE WEEK
That's always a challenge. Hopefully, their focus will be such that it gets them right back into it. We try to stay as much as possible in a normal routine. We didn't have a Friday walk-through and we didn't have a game Saturday, but other than that, the schedule was for the most part as it normally is during the week. This week's going to be a pretty normal schedule. You hate to break the routine, but yet, had you been on that bus on the way back from Mercer, hearing everybody coughing, hacking and sneezing, we needed a week to get healthy, as much as anything.
I think it came at a good time for us that way. We were becoming a tired, sick and beat-up football team. Hopefully we'll get back healthy. We're playing with great desire, great heart. I don't think that part's going to change. It's nice if you're physically healthy, ready to play with that kind of heart.
ON THE BYE WEEK
Having the week off was good for us. After 10 in a row and a tough, physical camp I think we were all ready for a break. We were all ready for a few days of less intensity or less intense concentration. It was good. The team is mentally refreshed a little bit and physically we're a little better off. We're not trying to approach this as a big game or anything else. It's game 11. If you're trying to win a championship – trying to win them all – every game is just as important as the last one or the next one. We are trying to get ready for game 11 at this point.
IF SAMFORD LOSING LAST WEEK CHANGES THE AFFECT OF THIS WEEK’S GAME
We still have to win. We had no control over what was happening last Saturday. I can't say I didn't keep up with the scores, but I wasn't checking them every few minutes to see. I started getting a lot of text messages towards the end of the Citadel-Samford game. But this week is game 11, and we have to control what we control. I know you get tired of hearing that and it's probably boring and mundane, but it's the truth. We have to focus on what we have to do and do our job.
ON CONTROLLING YOUR OWN DESTINY
This is a situation where we have control over what happens. We can't control what Samford does, how hard they play or how hard they don't play. The only thing we can control is how hard we play. Our Effort, our attitude, our intensity, our concentration.
I think this team understands that's what we have to do to win football games. We're not going to just show up. We're not good enough to just show up and win. We have to come out and we have to play well. We have to play smart. We have to play together offensively, defensively, in the kicking game, and make it all fit together in a way that gives us the best chance. That's one thing we've done pretty well. We're learning that process. We're improving. We've made a lot of progress as the season's gone on.
We're still learning that first play is just as important as the last one. If we ever figure that out, we don't have to come back late in these games like we have done this season. We've made a lot of progress in that area, but we're still learning.
We have to come out and play. Samford is a really talented football team. They have the preseason offense player of the year, preseason defensive player of the year, and were preseason favorites to win the league. So they're a very talented team, and I'm sure they're going to want to finish their season off the right way just as we do.
DOES THE SITUATION THIS WEEK MAKE THE TEAM NERVOUS?
If you allow it to, it does. But hopefully that's what we're trying not to allow happen. Just like we talk about the first play is as important as the last play, if you buy into that mentality then the first game is just as important as the last game… and you have play them all the same. We're certainly hoping this isn't our last game but this is the last one that’s guaranteed to us. It's game 11 on the schedule, so let's go find a way to win game 11.
ON DEVLIN HODGES
He has a lot of reps throwing the ball. He's experienced, but the thing that helps him out is he has good players to throw it to. They got a really, really good receiving core, and those guys like throwing it around and catching it. They do a good job running routes, they do a good job catching the ball. He does a good job getting it to them, and they do a good job of protecting the quarterback. They don't give up a lot of sacks. So, they're going to come out swinging it around. It's going to be the kind of game that pass rushers enjoy because we're going to get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. The secondary, linebackers, they're all going to have to show up and play well. But we need that pass rush to affect the quarterback.
ON THE SUCCESS OF THE TEAM
I've been fortunate to take over a team that had great heart and great desire. Whenever you win as many games as we have by 16 combined points, that just speaks a lot about the heart and the desire of the players. There's no doubt that coaching plays a part in it. I think a lot of times coaches lose more games than they actually win, but I do think coaching plays a part in it. The players are still out there making plays, and if the players show up and play, you got a chance to win. It doesn't matter what you do as a coach, if they don't show up to play, you’re probably not going to win. So it still gets down to the players being on the field making plays, and I've been fortunate to be a part of a group this year that shown up and made plays when the time came.
ON HAVING FUN THIS SEASON
Yeah, I've had a blast this year. Now, it's been a lot of work. I think when it's all over, I'll sit back, look at it and remember a lot of things. I tell the guys every time we go on the field, we're making a memory. We have made a lot of really good memories this year, and I'm sure once it's over, I'll get to appreciate them a whole lot more. There's been a lot of good memories made, but the bad part about coaching is you don't get to appreciate them very long. If you sit around and appreciate one too long, it'll probably cost you the next week. You never want one loss to make you lose the second one. You never assume because you win one that you're going to win the next one. You have to keep working, keep remembering what got you to where you are. I think once we get through the season and everything's all done, then I'll be able to set back and appreciate it a little bit more.
ON THE SENIORS
This group has played a lot of football, and they've won a lot of hearts and minds of people around the area. It’s been good this year to see them have success. I know talking with a number of them, one of the things they wanted was when their season was over this year – obviously they wanted to win and have success – but some of them mentioned to me that 10 to 15 years from now, they wanted to look back and know they built a program into something special. They laid the foundation and the groundwork for where the program is in 10 to 15 years. I think this is a group that can truly be proud of what they have done.
I've said it since I got here, we have a hungry team. We have a bunch of guys that want to win. It's been a fun group to coach because they've listened. They've bought in. It becomes easier to buy in when you win obviously, but it's easier to win when they buy in. They've been a group that can look back at what they have done and the success they've had this year regardless of how this game turns out, regardless of what happens from here going forward, and be proud of what has happened in the four or five years they've been here.
AUSTIN GATEWOOD – REDSHIRT SENIOR LINEBACKER
ON SAMFORD’S HIGH TEMPO OFFENSE
Every offense in this conference is going to be difficult to prepare for, but they (Samford) go high-tempo a lot. It's going to be really important for us to make sure we get lined up after each play and be ready for the next play, so we're not scrambling around trying to get in our positions when they snap the ball. It’s going to be important that we work on that tempo with the scout team this week in practice and get ready for that, so it's not a big shock to us on Saturday.
ON AUSTIN HERINK’S RETURN
He definitely earned it. Being his roommate, I get to see how hard he works and he's one of the hardest working teammates I've ever been around. To see what he's done, what he's been able to do this season, I'm really happy for him.
AUSTIN HERINK – REDSHIRT SENIOR QUARTERBACK
ON BALANCING SENIOR DAY AND POSSIBILITY OF BEING THE LAST GAME
We have to maintain that focus we had before the bye week, and listen to the coaches. I think we definitely all needed that bye week just to get away. I'd been looking at the same faces for four or five months in a row, and just to have a few days where you're off by yourself doing what you want to do is good. I think that's healthy. Getting away and now coming back, we have recharged our batteries, and we're ready to get after this last portion of the season. I think the team is ready to go. I think we're energized and we have to prepare this week like any other week because that's all it is. It’s opportunity number 11.
ON BEING THE BIG DOGS
Coach Torbush always used to say we are puppies right now but one day we'll be that big neighborhood dog barking at everybody. I don't know if we're that neighborhood dog, yet. I definitely feel like when those losses were going on, we had some perspective of "it's not always going to be like this" and starting a program is tough. We were tasked with that job, so we took a lot of responsibility in that and we wanted to get this program to where it was respectable nationwide.
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF THIS BEING HIS LAST COLLEGIATE GAME
If it hasn't crossed your mind, it will soon. If it is, knowing these guys like I know them, I think we're at peace with our football careers. We have all worked really, really hard to play at this level and to play at the level we have. Neither of us three are supremely talented by any means, so we've all had pretty good football careers. To play at this level and to play as many games we have, there's not many people who can say they've played as much college football as us three. So potentially our last game or certainly the last stretch of games we'll ever play, it's one of those things where we have just have to enjoy every second of it, because it's been a great ride and we'll look back on these times fondly.
ON RETURNING FOR HIS REDSHIRT SEASON
I think in the locker room after the game (last year at Chattanooga) I was thinking, "I don't know how much longer I can do this. I don't know if I want to keep on going with this." But I took two weeks off of anything strenuous and anything football. It would be really tough for me not to come back with my friends and all the relationships I've built here. With a lot of people leaving, that was tough too, but I just felt like we had some unfinished business. I thought, "You know, what the heck, what else would I do." I'm going to start coaching or whatever, why not just finish out my last season playing, and enjoy this time of still being a kid.
ON HIS RETURN VS. FURMAN
I kind of had a feeling and feelings aren't always trustworthy, but I just had a feeling at some point they may need me to come back in and win a game or something. That moment did come. With Coach Sanders and the staff encouraging me and my teammates encouraging me to stay prepared, when my moment came, I was ready for it. I think that's the biggest lesson that I've taken out of this season – whatever situation you’re faced with – the only thing you can control is how you respond. You always have to stay ready because you never know when your opportunity is going to come.
DYLAN WEIGEL – REDSHIRT SENIOR LINEBACKER
ON PREPARING FOR SAMFORD
With an offense like theirs you can get a lot of snaps in each game. Our offense will try to keep the ball so it will keep the defense off the field and from playing all of those snaps. Practice will be important like it is every week as we get used to their high tempo and hustling back to the ball so we can get in our position and be ready for the next snap. They're not going wait for us to get lined up, so making sure we implement that in our practices this week is very important. We have to make sure we are communicating and that we're getting the signals in. That's what we are going to focus on.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SATURDAY’S GAME
It all starts with us preparing when were are on the practice field. The bye week was nice to be able to get a week off, get out of here for the weekend, take some time off and heal up. We knew guys were beat up, so having a week off was big. We have to get the guys back in it tomorrow when we get back out on the practice field and make sure they're brought in so we can finish this season the right way. Coach always talks about what kind of punctuation mark do we want to put on our season. We have a chance this weekend to add to that but we have to prepare this week to make it possible.
DO YOU THINK THIS SUCCESS WAS POSSIBLE EARLY ON IN YOUR CAREER?
Those were some hard games to lose, but at the same time we were all 18, 19 years old and now we are 22, 23 (years old). So the tables have turned. We said we would get our payback when we were freshmen and out there playing our first year of collegiate football. We always knew we could come back, compete at this level and stay true to the process. In the weight room, Coach Johnson does a good job and these coaches have done a great job being there for us along the way getting us ready to come to battle every week.
ON HERINK’S RETURN TO BEING THE STARTING QUARTERBACK
He deserves it. He puts in work in the offseason, he’s a great leader for the team and he’s a great friend to be around, so it was definitely a big momentum shift. He's been our leader since this program returned, and you've seen that in the games especially the close ones we've won. When he came in it gave the whole team a boost.
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