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Herink adds another magical moment for ETSU fans

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 28, 2018 at 5:02 PM

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

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 on Saturday evening at Greene Stadium.

It was the eighth fourth-quarter or overtime comeback that Herink has engineered.

"It goes back to what coach (Randy Sanders) says," said Herink, who finished with 339 yards (294 passing, 45 rushing) of offense. "You can't get caught up in the 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 one was eight plays for 81 yards, capped off by Herink's 3-yard touchdown run. The second one was 15 plays for 88 yards with Herink hitting 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 two-point conversion.

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

Herink turned to Adkins and said there was a reason they missed, and "Let's go win this thing."

Jacob Salyers scored touchdowns on the second and third overtimes and then Herink added the game-winning, two-point conversion by trusting his instincts and running it himself.

"The first two-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 his starting job back by rallying ETSU from 21 points against Furman for a 29-27 victory. Two years ago against Western Carolina in the Bucs' return to the Southern Conference at Bristol Motor Speedway, Herink rallied them from a 21-3 halftime deficit to a 34-31 victory.

Sanders talked about the qualities that make Herink 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 has proven to be the consummate team player. He talked about what it meant for his longtime teammate and ETSU roommate Austin Gatewood to make a game-ending play by getting Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams on the final two-point conversion attempt and forcing him to underthrow his final pass.

Herink talked about seeing Gatewood make the game-ending stop.

"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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