Herink takes step forward at QB for Bucs

Joe Avento • Updated Sep 4, 2015 at 5:00 AM

As the East Tennessee State University football team entered Kermit Tipton Stadium on Thursday, someone asked Austin Herink which quarterback would play first.

Both Herink and Nick Sexton had been listed as the starters heading into the season opener against Kennesaw State.

“We’re going to flip a coin,” Herink replied with a smile.

Kidding or not, Herink wound up as the starter, and based on the two quarterbacks’ performances, that will probably happen again.

But on this night, it really didn’t matter which quarterback was playing for ETSU. Kennesaw State’s offense made the Bucs look like the first-year program it is. The only problem was, Kennesaw Stat is in its first year as well.

The result was a 56-16 Kennesaw State victory.

“We have a long way to go but we’re going to be alright,” Herink said. “I think we played alright. Six, seven, eight plays got away from us.”

Herink looked calm in the pocket and completed his first eight passes for 90 yards. He was sacked once, but avoided the big mistake.

The Bucs got a pair of field goals from JJ Jerman in the first half with Herink running the offense.

Sexton led the Bucs on their only touchdown drive after being given good field position on a botched punt snap.That put ETSU up 13-7.

But the fatal error the coaches talked about avoiding couldn’t be avoided.

Kennesaw State defensive lineman Nick Perrotta picked off a short Sexton pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown and a 21-13 Owls’ lead.That started Kennesaw State on a wave of 49 unanswered points.

Herink was back out to start the second half, but by the time he got onto the field, the Owls had gone ahead 28-13 on a 69-yard touchdown reception.

Herink, the lefty, completed 14 of 22 passes for 132 yards. Sexton was 7 of 17 for 98 yards with two interceptions.

Kennesaw State’s option was too tough and too efficient for the Bucs. Many of the sellout crowd of 8,217 were already heading for the exits by the end of the third quarter.

“We had them figured out that first half,” Bucs linebacker Dylan Weigel said. “I think they just came out a little faster in the second half.”

In the end, ETSU’s offense couldn’t keep pace. The Owls ran for 416 yards.

“We have to have a lot of people converge on it,” ETSU linebacker River Boruff said of the option. “It wasn’t tough to stop. We just have to do what were supposed to do.”

One fear for the Bucs was that they would play the run so hard it would leave them vulnerable to a pass here and there, and that’s what happened. Kennesaw State only completed two passes, but they went for 96 yards and that total included the 69-yard score.

Once the Owls got the lead, they were able to play their game -- run the ball and keep running the clock. And they did it to perfection.

Kennesaw State averaged more than eight yards a play on 63 snaps.

In a year of firsts for the ETSU team, a first loss was inevitably going to happen. It just happened in the first game.

The Bucs get another chance next week when Maryville College comes to town. They also get another shot at Kennesaw State next year.

“We got better tonight,” Herink said. “This is a process. We’re so young. We’re going to be OK.”

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