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Bethany Football Looks to Rebound in Conference Clash with Waynesburg

Sept. 24 - BETHANY, W. Va. - The Bethany College football team (1-2, 0-1 PAC), will take to the road for the first time since week one, when they travel to Waynesburg University for a bout with the Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon. Full game notes can be viewed below.

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The Bison: The Bethany football team comes into their contest with the Yellow Jackets having split a pair of home contests in their previous two outings. The Green & White first took down Thiel College (51-16), before falling to Westminster by a 38-24 score to open conference play.

In the matchup with Westminster, the Bison took a 17-14 lead into the halftime break, getting touchdown runs from both Jalen Holmes and Antonio Hannah in the opening half. The Green & White also boasted a +1 turnover advantage. However, the second half would be the undoing of the Bison, as they were outscored 24-7 in the third and fourth quarters. The Green & White turned the ball over four times in the second stanza, leading to the lopsided, second-half advantage for the Titans.

In the game, the Green & White outgained their opponent for the second-consecutive week, totaling 342 yards of offense in the contest. Holmes led the rushing attack for the Bison, notching 80 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Hannah tallied his first-career touchdown in the game, scoring on a 44-yard scamper.

Defensively, the Bison totaled 10+ tackles for loss for the second-straight game, stopping Westminster behind the line 11 times. Donavan Hayden once again led the Bethany defense, tallying 14 total stops (11 solo) while also forcing a pair of fumbles.

The Yellow Jackets: Like the Bison, Waynesburg enters this weekend’s matchup with a 1-2 record, having dropped their conference opener to Geneva College by a score of 41-24 in Beaver Falls.

Things started out well for the Yellow Jackets on the road, jumping out to a 17-7 lead after the first quarter of play thanks to a pair of Jake Dougherty touchdown passes. From there, however, Geneva would tally 34 unanswered points.

The Golden Tornadoes notched a pair of touchdowns in both the second and third quarters, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 28-0 in the middle two stanzas. All four TDs came through the air for Geneva, with three of the touchdowns coming from more than 20 yards out.

Geneva would then score their fifth touchdown in a row in the fourth quarter, a 23-yard run, before Waynesburg rounded out the scoring with just over nine minutes to play in the game.

Defensively, the Yellow Jackets gave up 443 yards of total offense to Geneva, including 312 yards through the air. Waynesburg allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Golden Tornadoes, allowing five touchdowns through the air.

Individually, Dougherty performed well at quarterback, finishing the game 24-of-40 for 218 yards and a trio of scores. He spread the attack well, completing a pass to eight different receivers, including Kevin Barnes, who finished with five receptions for 80 yards and a score.

The Series: The matchup in Waynesburg will mark the 51st meeting between the Bison and Yellow Jackets with Waynesburg holding a 26-18-6 advantage over Bethany. In the last seven seasons, the teams have played close to even with Bethany holding a 4-3 advantage in head-to-head meetings since 2008, including winning the last two.

When Last They Met: In 2014, the Green & White were riding a two-game winning streak heading into their second home contest of the season. The Bison seemed fully in control in the first half, outscoring Waynesburg 19-0 through the first two quarters. Bethany posted three TDs in the half, including a pair of touchdown runs, as well as a 41-yard reception by Eric Blinn.

Waynesburg came back strong in the third quarter, outscoring Bethany 20-7 out of the break with the Green & White’s lone touchdown coming on a 50-yard reception from senior Chris Collins. Bethany then opened a 33-20 lead on Brandon Hill’s second TD of the day, before holding on for the 33-27 win.

The Bethany defense provided the big play in the game, as Larry Kpadehyea turned away a potential game-winning drive by Waynesburg with an interception at the goal line with just under one minute to play.

The game proved to be an offensive explosion, as both teams gained more that 400 yards of offense. The Bison tallied 495 in the game, posting 231 rushing yards and 264 yards through the air. Hill led the rushing attack with 148 yards and two scores, while Blinn finished with 12 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown.

The Coaches: Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Waynesburg’s Rick Shepas will meet for the third time when the teams take the field at John F. Wiley Stadium. Garvey currently holds a 2-0 record against Shepas-led teams, with the Bison grabbing victories in Waynesburg in 2013 and at home in 2014.

Through 23 regular season games, Garvey has posted 11 victories, leading the Bison to four wins during his first season, and six more in year two. He currently has the third-most wins in Bethany history of any head coach through 23 games. He currently trails only PAC Champion coach Bob Goin and the program’s first ever head coach, H.A. Watson on the list.

Entering his 11th year at Waynesburg in 2015, Shepas has already vaulted himself into second place all-time for program wins (64-40). He owns a .615 winning percentage, the third-highest mark amongst all Yellow Jacket coaches who have held the position at least four seasons.

Big Play Capabilities: The Bethany offense has shown the ability to strike for scores from anywhere on the field in their last two games. In contests against both Thiel and Westminster, the Green & White have tallied six touchdown scores of at least 30 yards. Last week, it was freshman Antonio Hannah that notched a touchdown run of 44 yards against the Titans.

This week, the Bison go up against a Waynesburg defense that has had an affinity for giving up the big score. Nine times already one the season, the Yellow Jackets have allowed a touchdown that has come outside of the red zone, with four of those scores coming from 35+ yards.

Blinnsanity: Look for senior Eric Blinn to once again be an effective weapon for the Bethany offense. Last week, Blinn became the Presidents’ Athletic Conference all-time career leader in total receptions (273) and has currently amassed 3,393 total receiving yards, ranking him first on the career active list in all of Division III.

On Saturday, Blinn will once again look to have success against a Waynesburg squad that he has averaged 9.3 catches, 120.6 yards and a touchdown against in three-career contests. His best game against Waynesburg came in 2013, when he tallied 12 catches for 145 yards and two scores, including the game winner in the final minute of play.

Battle In the Trenches: On both sides of the ball, the Bison will go up against a formidable counterpart on the line.

On defense, the Green & White have posted 10+ tackles for loss in their last two outings, including 11 against Westminster last week. In the previous contest, a victory over Thiel, ten different players tallied at least .5 tackles for loss.

Along with their ability to stop the run at the point of attack, the Bison have also shown the ability to get to the quarterback, ranking second in the PAC in total sacks (11). This week, the Green & White go against a Waynesburg offensive line that has allowed just six sacks through three games this season.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Green & White will look to once again use a balance attack, trying to find the strength in their running game that they showed against Thiel in week two. In that contest, Bethany tallied 9.5 yards per carry, including 166 yards from junior Jalen Holmes. Most of the yards the Bison ate up against the Tomcats came up the middle.

Once again, Bethany will find a stout test on the opposite side of the ball, as the Waynesburg defense ranks fourth in the PAC in rushing defense, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry, as well as 135.0 yards per outing on the ground.

Limiting Turnovers: Perhaps one of the biggest keys to the game with the Yellow Jackets will be how well the Bison can hold on to the football. Currently, the Green & White rank ninth in the PAC in turnover margin (-3). Bethany has thrown five interceptions on the year, while losing one fumble.

This week, the Green & White will need to take care of the ball against a Waynesburg squad that enters the contest ranks first in the conference in turnover margin (+3). The Yellow Jackets have forced six takeaways through the first three weeks of the season, ranking second among conference counterparts.