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Bucs QB Herink offers up another magical moment

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 28, 2018 at 9:01 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Amazing moments have become somewhat commonplace for East Tennessee State football fans under the leadership of senior quarterback Austin Herink.

On Saturday evening at Greene Stadium, Herink rallied the Bucs from a 15-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, throwing a game-tying touchdown with just 10 seconds left in regulation. He then led his team to a 45-43 triple-overtime win over Western Carolina.

It was the eighth fourth-quarter or overtime comeback engineered by Herink during his ETSU career.

“It goes back to what coach says,” said Herink, who finished with 339 yards — 294 passing, 45 rushing — of offense. “You can’t get caught up in the mistakes you made previously because you can’t change that. You go to what you can control in the moment.

“You continue to execute the play-calling and move on to the next play until it’s finished.”

His fourth-quarter drives weren’t short by any means. The first was eight plays for 81 yards, capped by Herink’s 3-yard touchdown run. The second was 15 plays for 88 yards, ending when Herink hit freshman tight end Nate Adkins on a 1-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone with just 10 seconds left in regulation. Herink kept it himself on a designed play for the game-tying 2-point conversion.

The game looked lost again when Herink threw an interception in the first overtime, but the Catamounts missed a 28-yard field goal on their scoring opportunity and the Bucs had new life.

Herink then turned to Adkins and said: “Let’s go win this thing.”

Jacob Saylors ran for touchdowns in the second and third overtimes, and Herink scored the game-winning 2-point conversion by trusting his instincts and running it himself.

“The first 2-point conversion was a designed play,” Herink said. “The second one, we’ve practiced it a lot and I didn’t feel comfortable throwing it in that area. I decided to go with it and see what happens.”

Earlier this season, Herink won back his starting job by rallying ETSU from 21 points down against Furman for a 29-27 victory. Two years ago against Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway, Herink rallied the Bucs from a 21-3 halftime deficit to a 34-31 victory.

Bucs coach Randy Sanders said Herink’s playing abilities are only a part of what makes him such a special player.

“He has character and integrity, which allows him to be a good football player,” Sanders said. “I think I can still throw as well as he does and I know I can run better than he does. The guy, he competes and fights. Sometimes it’s not a matter of the talent you have. Do you have the character, the integrity and the fight? He’s definitely got those things.”

Herink, always the consummate team player, freely shared the glory from the win, particularly with linebacker Austin Gatewood.

Gatewood, Herink’s longtime teammate and roommate, made the game-ending play by getting to Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams on the final 2-point conversion attempt and forcing him to underthrow his final pass.

“He’s my roommate and will probably be the best man in my wedding at some point,” Herink said. “He’s probably the closest friend I have. That’s something that’s cool now, but something that will probably be even cooler down the road when we have time to reflect on it.”

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