Game day here for Bucs

Joe Avento • Sep 1, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Years of planning and construction — both on the stadium and the team — will come to fruition Saturday when the first football game is played at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium on the campus of East Tennessee State University.

The Bucs are playing host to Limestone College in their new home and they’re hoping to get the season started much like last year, when they went on the road and beat Kennesaw State.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and a sellout crowd is expected to be on hand. If you don’t have a ticket, you can watch it on the ESPN3 stream.

ETSU coach Carl Torbush is hoping the crowd is a factor from the very beginning.

“The thing I’m excited about is to see this stadium fully filled, making a lot of noise, and seeing how loud it can possibly be,” Torbush said. “The thing I’d be most proud of is having the opposing team call a timeout because they couldn’t get the call in.”

ETSU’s opponent, an NCAA Division II team from Gaffney, South Carolina, is coming off a 5-6 season. The Bucs also went 5-6 last year and won their last game of the season, a 15-14 victory over playoff-bound Samford.

ETSU will be starting its third season back in college football after a 12-year absence. The program had been dropped after the 2003 season because of financial concerns.

The new $25.8 million stadium has more than 7,600 seats, but upwards of 10,000 people could be in attendance, depending on how many standing-room and hillside tickets are sold.

“This makes everything final,” quarterback Austin Herink said. “This is our field to call home. It’s definitely something we’re excited about and we can’t wait to play in it. It’s going to be really awesome on Saturday to see this place packed out. I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be pretty incredible.”

Before the game, as the clock winds down to kickoff, there will undoubtedly be the usual jumping around and slapping of heads as the Bucs get fired up for their first game. Torbush wants the players to save some of that energy for the other team.

“We don’t want to play a football game before you ever get on the field,” he said. “Then you lose all your energy and all your juice. If you’re not careful, you’re tired at halftime and it’s not because you’re out of shape. You’ve used so much adrenaline up getting prepared for the game.”

When asked if his team will be more excited for this opener than the previous ones, Torbush said he didn’t think that would be possible.

“I don’t know if you can have more than the max,” he said. “This one should be exciting, but I don’t know that you can measure the excitement because the first game, everybody’s excited.”

Player to watch

Herink had better keep an eye on Joshua Simmons. The Limestone senior defensive back, who wears No. 17, intercepted eight passes last year and returned three of them for touchdowns.

Line ’em up

The offensive linemen usually toil in anonymity. Much of the fate of this year’s ETSU team will be determined by how the big guys up front perform. They’re bigger and more experienced, so more is expected.

Herink has looked good when he’s had time to find an open receiver. Whether or not he gets enough time to look good is up to the line.

The offensive line is led by preseason All-Southern Conference selection Alex Rios at tackle.

Will experience mean success?

ETSU has plenty of experience on the roster this year. With 19 juniors or seniors on offense and 14 on defense, the Bucs won’t be using inexperience as an excuse anymore.

How that equates to on-field production will be interesting to watch.

Buc Walk

The Buc Walk will take place at 4:45 p.m. as the team makes its way from the Minidome to the stadium. It will take place two hours and 15 minutes before each home game.

Solid gold

The Bucs will be debuting a new uniform combination. They’ll wear gold pants and for the first time; they’ll also wear gold jerseys.

Weather outlook

With the remnants of Hurricane Harvey bringing intermittent rain to Johnson City for the past two days, a chance of rain is in the forecast for the football game.

Any rain will undoubtedly be met with jokes about the Bucs’ old home, the Minidome. They played inside for 27 years, and while the facility lacked any character, it always stayed dry, except for the occasional leak in the roof.

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