Sept. 17 - The Bethany College football team (1-1) will take to the road for the second consecutive week, as they travel to New Wilmington, Pa. to take on the Titans of Westminster College. The contest is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.
The Bison: Bethany comes into their first Presidents’ Athletic Conference contest of the season, having upended Thiel College, 45-24 on Sept. 13. In the game, Bethany found itself down by a 17-10 score with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter. That, however, is when the tides turned. The Bison would start a 35-point run, as five different players found the end zone over the next 22 minutes of the game. For the second-straight week, Bethany controlled the turnover margin, finishing with a +2. Sophomore quarterback Brian Vales ran for two scores and threw for two more in the win. The Bethany defense was in the Tomcat backfield all evening, notching eight tackles for loss and four sacks while forcing two fumbles on the day.
The Titans: Westminster comes into the contest with a record of 0-2, having dropped a 56-21 decision to Washington & Jefferson in a game that was considered a “non-conference” affair. The Titans allowed 572 total yards of offense to the Presidents and gave up five total touchdowns to W&J’s Ryan Ruffing. The Titans were led in the game by Dominque McKinley, who finished the day with 79 yards rushing and a score.
The Series: This week’s contest will mark the 53rd meeting between the Bison and Westminster. The Titans own a 39-11-2 advantage over the Green & White, with Bethany’s last victory coming in New Wilmington in 2010. The Titans have since won the last three meetings.
The Last Time They Met: In 2013, the Bison came into the contest with the Titans riding a three-game winning streak. The game turned out to be a defensive struggle with neither team getting much of an advantage on the offensive side of the ball. Thanks to two Pedro Lalor field goals, the Bison held a 6-0 lead late in the game. However, with 44 seconds remaining in the contest, the Titans were able to block a punt, which they recovered in the end zone to give Westminster the 7-6 victory. In the game, both defenses played well as the Bison held the Titans to just 86 yards passing, and Westminster held Bethany to 64 rushing yards.
The Coaches: Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Westminster’s Scott Benzel meet head-to-head for the first time.
Garvey, who spent 7 years as an offensive coordinator, helped build one of the most prolific offenses that Bethany has ever seen. He led the Bison to a 4-6 mark in 2013, including wins over Grove City (34-31), Waynesburg (27-20) and PAC Champion Washington & Jefferson (24-19). 2013 marked the first time in program history that the Bison had defeated both Waynesburg and W&J in the same season.
Benzel is in his first season as a head coach after serving 11 years in the FCS with Division I schools St. Francis and Robert Morris University. Benzel spent nine years with the Colonials before coaching two seasons as a co-defensive coordinator for the Red Flash. Benzel also has experience at the D3 level, coaching for a season at Wittenberg University.
New Sheriff In Town: Sophomore quarterback Brian Vales is making just his third start in a Bison uniform this weekend, and he continues to improve in each contest. Last week against Thiel, Vales played his best game to date, totaling four touchdowns in Bethany’s 45-24 victory. The sophomore signal caller completed 19-of-23 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Vales also led the team in rushing with 63 yards and a pair of scores. So far this season, Vales leads the Presidents’ Athletic Conference in both completion percentage (33-of-43 for 76.7 percent) and passing efficiency (155.6).
Turnover Battle: In week two, the Bison won the turnover battle for the second consecutive week, posting a +2 margin in the victory over the Tomcats. It marked the second-consecutive week that the Bison posted a +2 in turnover margin, and currently lead the conference in that category with a +4, overall. The Bison have recovered four fumbles on the season, while not committing a single turnover through the first two weeks. On the opposite side of the field, the Titans come into the game ranked last in the PAC in turnover margin. Westminster has forced one turnover, while committing four in the first two weeks, for a -3 turnover margin.
Stop the Run: So far during the 2014 campaign, the Bison have been more efficient at stopping the run than in year’s past. Through two games this season, the Bison have allowed just 131.5 yards per game on the ground, ranking them ranking Bethany fourth in the PAC in that category. After allowing 145 yards to Mount Union in week 1, the Bison rebounded well, giving up just 118 yards to a Thiel offense that put up a season-high 312 yards against Bethany last season. On the other side of the field, The Titans come into the contest ranked fourth in the PAC in rushing offense, averaging 156.0 yards per game.
Steadily Improving Defense: The Bison defensive front did a solid job in the contest against Thiel last week, allowing just 230 total yards of offense in the 45-24 victory over the Tomcats. The total yardage allowed by the Green & White marked the lowest total yardage given up by the defense since a victory over King’s College on November 19, 2011. Defensive ends, junior Nadim Raddar and sophomore Khallid Pierce have been disrupting forces in the opponents’ backfields. After Pierce registered 4.0 tackles for loss in week one against Mount Union, Raddar made his mark, notching 3.5 sacks and 12 total tackles, as well as a forced fumble in the win over Mount. So far on the year, Bethany is averaging 9.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks per contest. Raddar is leading the PAC in total tackles (21) and he (5.5) and Pierce (4.0) both rank in the top three in the conference in tackles for loss.
Balanced Offense: Part of the Bethany success on the offensive side of the ball in the victory against Thiel last week can be attributed to the balance that the Bison showed. The Green & White posted six touchdowns against Thiel, getting two touchdowns through the air, and four more on the ground. Five different Bison scored a touchdown, including receivers Eric Blinn and Chris Collins. Sophomore receiver Tyler Ambush scored his first career rushing touchdown, as did sophomore running back Jalon Holmes. Vales was the only Bison to score multiple touchdowns, finding pay dirt twice with his feet.
PAC Opener: Due to the reorganization of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference with the additions of Case Western Reserve and Carnegie Mellon, the Bison are playing nine conference opponents this season, but only eight will be counted toward the conference standings. Last week’s victory over Thiel was considered a “non-conference” victory and Bethany will officially open their 2014 PAC season against the Titans this week. Bethany will look to win their conference opener for the first time since 2001 when they defeated Waynesburg 34-7.
Up Next: Next week the Bison will return home for the first time in three weeks when they host Waynesburg University. The contest with the Yellow Jackets will kick off at 7 p.m. the game marks the only night game at Bison Stadium this season.