Once in the season opener and again in the season closer, JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tenn.) scored the game winning kick for the Bucs.
On Nov. 19 at Kermit-Tipton Stadium, Samford entered the game No. 3 in the Southern Conference looking to defeat the No. 7 East Tennessee State University Buccaneers. But the Bucs would not allow it, proving many doubters wrong and giving Samford their third loss in conference play.
The fourth quarter was one to remember, especially the last three minutes and thirty-six seconds of the game when ETSU started their final drive of the game.
An 11-yard pass from Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) to Kobe Kelly (Knoxville, Tenn.) started the momentum for the Bucs. Immediately after the play, Herink threw a long pass to Drake Powell for 27 yards. Three more plays were completed by the Bucs, and Samford took a timeout with 47 seconds remaining and again with 38 seconds remaining as the Bucs slowly but surely continued down the field as Herink rushed for five yards.
After a loss of one yard by Herink, the Bucs called a time out with two seconds left and lined up in kicking formation at the Samford 11-yard line.
JJ Jerman’s field goal attempt from 28 was good, and the Bucs defeated Samford 15-14, knocking them out of the conference playoffs to end their season.
“I start planning for it when there’s five minutes left in the game,” Jerman said. “You realize you’re down by two so there’s a pretty good chance you’ll kick a field goal. You start getting the mentality that you have to focus up. As soon as you see that play you have be ready by then. All I was thinking about was that kick. I checked the wind several times, and made sure I was loose. Usually there’s nothing on my mind. Pure nothing. A good kicker whenever he’s kicking thinks about nothing.”
Herink completed six plays on eight attempts for 100 yards passing in the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s game wasn’t a high scoring game as both teams were physical on defense.
In the second half, the Bucs held Samford to 49 offensive yards, and the Bucs gave them 206 in return. Overall, the ETSU defense held Samford to 2 of 10 on third down chances.
Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) made a strong appearance on defense. Weigel finished with 10 tackles and ended the season leading the team in tackles with 106 for the 2016 season.
“We knew they had a high tempo offense, so we had to come out and keep going,” Weigel said. “They may have plays where you have to line up and go again. We had the right scheme against them, we were able to stop them a lot and keep going and we ended up being successful.”
This is the first time ETSU has ever defeated Samford. Before Saturday’s victory ETSU was 0-3 against the Samford Bulldogs.
“It was a testament to our whole program … the strength program … how we practice every day,” Herink said. “Just continue to fight no matter what adversity we face. Man, that was really exciting in the game the way we did.”