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BETHANY TO BATTLE WESTMINSTER SATURDAY FOR PAC WIN

Oct. 16 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College football team will open the second half of their 2008 schedule Saturday when they travel to Westminster for a PAC contest. Kickoff with the Titans is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

The Bison (1-4, 0-3) are anxious to get back on the field after a crushing 50-44 loss in four overtimes last week at Thiel. BC, who led 28-7 at halftime, compiled 514 total yards in the setback, including 105 rushing yards and three TDs from freshman RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) and 353 passing yards and a pair of scoring passes from freshman QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.).

When asked to rank the loss on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of disappointment, head coach Tim Weaver was quick to answer.

“Twenty-seven,” said Weaver. “When you have a 28-7 lead with 18 minutes left in the game, your assistant coaches have put together a good game plan, the players have executed and there wasn’t one big play to change the momentum, the loss comes straight down on one person and that’s me. When the team isn’t quite as focused as it needs to be in that situation and doesn’t have the attitude to finish it off, those things are the responsibility of the head coach.

“We played as good as we’ve played all season for three quarters and didn’t play badly in the fourth quarter, but we just didn’t have that killer instinct,” said Weaver. “I feel terrible for the seniors because we are only two or three plays away from being 3-2 and having a completely different conversation.”

The Bison offense continues to operate at a high rate of success, as they are ranked second in the PAC in total yards (394.2), third in rushing (143.4) and passing (250.8) and fourth in scoring (26.4). However, the Green and White attack has been contained in the second half of their four losses, as they have scored a total of three points in the eight quarters after halftime, not including the overtime periods against Thiel. Weaver says each game has presented a different challenge to the Bison offense.

“The reason has been a little different each game,” said Weaver. “In the opener, Otterbein, who has proven how good they are (5-0, ranked 21st in the nation), recovered from a first half in which we had them on the ropes a little. Against Grove City, we called a conservative game in the second half, due in large part to it being Chad’s second start ever, and coached not to lose instead of win, which is our fault. The Thomas More game was about red zone execution, as we got down there, but had to settle for field goals and the game turned when we came away empty-handed late on a drive.

“As for Saturday, I don’t have an explanation,” said Weaver. “We left the offense open, threw the ball, but we had some little things happen, liked a couple dropped passes, a couple missed throws and a holding penalty on first down. There is no pattern of consistent breakdown. We didn’t have the laser-beam focus we needed on Saturday, which is what you need against a team like Thiel, who has seniors who have been in the playoffs and know what they’re doing.”

What Weaver is looking for is a repeat of last year’s outcome with Westminster. The contest was tied at 21-21 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bison seized control with three unanswered scores in a 41-21 victory. Sophomore RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while also hauling in a four-yard scoring pass. Receivers Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier), who had 12 catches for 133 yards and Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.), who snared eight balls for 140 yards and a TD, also enjoyed big games.

“Last year’s Westminster game is a perfect example of what we want to do,” said Weaver. “Tie game going into the fourth quarter and we win by three touchdowns. Even though I think we’re a better team this year, we haven’t done that yet because we just aren’t finishing.”

This year’s Titan squad comes in with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the PAC following a 63-26 loss at Waynesburg last week. Westminster was stung by the opening kickoff being run back for a touchdown and two interceptions getting returned for scores as well. The Titans out-gained Waynesburg 423-399, but had five passes picked off. Quarterback Kevin Franz threw for 221 yards and receiver Chad Rosatelli made six receptions for 116 yards and pair of TDs.

As a team, Westminster is ranked second in the conference in passing (262.3), but is tied for seventh in rushing yards with only 75.7 per game despite having a talented back in junior Nick McKolosky, who has rushed for 487 yards and five scores. Franz has completed 62 percent of his pass attempts for 1,416 yards, but has seven INTs to six touchdowns. Defensively, Westminster is allowing 32.0 points per game, third-highest total in the conference. Linebacker Jordan Blinn leads the team in tackles with 43 and DL Andrew Robison is tied for second in the PAC with five sacks.

“I think Westminster, Grove City, Thiel and us are all so even that it comes down to a one or two plays and the team with the confidence and focus will make those plays,” said Weaver. “Westminster has a very experienced quarterback who knows what throws he can make. McKolosky is a good back and looks faster then he’s been. They have a bunch of guys back on defense and we’ve been watching Blinn and Robison for a couple years now and know how good they are.

“But we have a chance to beat them if we play a full 60 minutes,” said Weaver. “It won’t be easy, with this weekend being Homecoming for them, but it’s my job to make sure we’re ready to go.”

Despite the gut-wrenching losses this season, Weaver says his team is much closer to 3-2 this season than either of the previous two and his players are still putting in the work needed to have a strong second half.

 “Even though last week as tough of a loss as you could have, we still feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” said Weaver. “Even though we were 2-3 at this point the last two years, those losses were by big margins. We’ve lost one game this year in the final minute and another in overtime, so we feel we’re a lot closer to 3-2 then we’ve been. And the players see that too. They are an unbelievable group to be around. They come to practice and work harder than they have all year, which says something about the seniors who have grown up in the program.”