Is ETSU Football Getting Top Billing This Week In The Tri-Cities?

We know the Vols will lose this week to Alabama. Enter the frisky young 6–1 colt!

Marky Billson, Host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

Is it just me? Or to the average football fan in the Tri-Cities has this week’s ETSU at Wofford game become bigger than the “Third Saturday in October?”

Maybe it’s because we know who is going to win the Alabama at Tennessee game. The game has become a dud from a competitive standpoint. Even by hiring the Crimson Tide’s old defensive coordinator the Vols seem to be saying “Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em!”

But ETSU against Wofford is different. When have the Buccaneers ever been in first place, alone, in their conference this late in the season?

Plus, it’s Wofford. The only team ETSU has never beaten since football’s revival. The Bucs have a seven-game losing streak to the Terriers dating back to 1998.

Wofford is the one team that always kept the Bucs from advancing as a football program.

In the 1980s, it appeared ETSU had picked themselves up off the mat. Mike Ayers had led the Bucs from a winless 1985 to a winning record in 1986. A late season slump led to a losing record in ‘87- Same Old Bucs- but not before defeating N.C. State for the program’s only victory against a Division I-A opponent (now FBS) in history.

There was an appearance times could be changing.

Mike Ayers coaching ETSU. Next week Wofford will name their field after him.

Then Wofford, then a Division II school, plucked Ayers from ETSU. Six straight losing seasons followed. Included in the woe was a 64–46 defeat to Wofford, still then a Division II foe.

ETSU last made the postseason in 1996. In 1997, Wofford joined the Southern Conference. Two years later, the Terriers’ first victory against ETSU as an equal ended any hope of a Buccaneers’ postseason berth.

Wofford has never lost to ETSU on the gridiron since.

Even two years ago, ETSU appeared to be on their way to a rags-to-riches revival of football. The Bucs were 2–0, had enjoyed dramatic victories against Kennesaw State and Western Carolina, before playing the Terriers, who were coming off a 5–6 season.

It wasn’t just that the Bucs then lost to Wofford. It was that they never crossed midfield in a 31–0 defeat. The Bucs were blown out against their next five conference opponents en route to yet another losing record.

Bunch of SOBs- the Same Old Bucs.

Like Alabama to Tennessee, Wofford is the program that keeps the Bucs down.

Only tomorrow, unlike at Tennessee, there is a chance ETSU could win.

Here’s the recipe for Bucs victory. Both teams figure to take away each other’s running game. Nobody in the Southern Conference can run on ETSU’s front seven, and ETSU can’t gain significant yardage on the ground against any legitimate opponent.

For Wofford that’s a huge handicap as they are an option team. The Terriers throw fewer than 14 passes a game. They are not built to come back.

So it’s the game that defines Austin Herink’s career. Granted, FCS quarterbacks that do not go on to play pro football generally aren’t remembered. How many Bucs fans know Jack Vest- of Jack Vest Drive fame- was East Tennessee State’s quarterback in the 1940s?

But is Herink to be the quarterback who leads ETSU to their first conference title in 49 years and 37 seasons? Will his comebacks against Furman and Western Carolina be what he’s associated with?

Gotta do more than this against the Terriers, Austin.

Or will it be inconsistency? The benching prior to his senior season?

Herink is going to have to put the Bucs on his shoulders. He’s probably going to have to put up more than the 19 points he did against The Citadel and the 17 against Chattanooga, teams not as strong as Wofford. He’ll have to finish the drives he didn’t against the Bulldogs and not go to sleep in the second half like he did against the Mocs.

Can Herink stretch the defense? Can he avoid turnovers? Will he be able to scramble?

Herink is the key figure in the game and if ETSU can continue to get top billing locally.

It comes down to whether he chokes or stars tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities 12–2 p.m. ET weekdays. Watch his show live or archived here and here.

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