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BETHANY GOES ON THE ROAD SATURDAY TO FACE WAYNESBURG

Oct. 21 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After settling for a split in their two-game home stand, the Bethany football heads out on the road for a pair of contests, with the first being this Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Waynesburg, a place they have not won since 1996.

In last week’s home outing, the Bison (2-4, 1-3) fell behind Westminster 17-0 and trailed 31-14 going into the fourth quarter. Although sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) scored a pair of touchdowns in the final period, BC was unable to complete the comeback and took a 31-28 defeat. Walker, who leads the PAC in touchdowns (13) and is second in rushing (629), gained 136 yards on the ground on 20 carries and scored three times, leaving him three away from setting the school’s single-season touchdown mark.

The setback, especially coming on the heels of a big Homecoming victory the weekend before over Thiel, was a tough one for head coach Tim Weaver and the Bison program.

“Our slow start last week comes on me,” said Weaver. “Coming off a big win in which we played great in all three phases of the game, we should have had a bunch of momentum. Instead, we didn’t come out executing the way we should have and that’s my fault. I thought the players gave a great effort and there was no quit in the fourth quarter, but we just didn’t have enough to get over that hump.”

One group on the Bison which has had a slow start to the season is their special teams, in particular, the return games. With Taylor McNeil, one of the top runback men in the PAC over the previous three seasons, finishing his career last fall, Bethany knew they would have a hole to fill. So far, BC is ranked ninth in the league in kick returns (14.7) and eighth in punt returns (3.4), but Weaver says with the young players they have in place and a little better execution, the return games could erupt at any time.

“With our special teams, it’s been a bunch of little different mistakes,” said Weaver. “In terms of our coverage, we’ve covered kicks fine. We don’t have someone who can put a kickoff inside the 5- or 10-yard line, but we’ve covered it well, and outside of one big return against Otterbein and one at Thomas More which have skewed our average, we’ve been good on punts.

“The kick and punt returns is something we’ve been good at for three years and now it’s really frustrating to have some struggles there,” said Weaver. “We have good athletes in the return game, but as any special teams coach will tell you, it’s usually just one missed block or assignment. We look at film and see we’re one away from springing a big one and it’s a different guy every time. We need to get everyone to understand how important their assignment is every time and we should see drastic improvement.”

The Bethany special teams could get a workout if this week’s game plays out like most of the season has for Waynesburg (3-3, 0-2). The Yellow Jackets have scored less than 33 points just once this season and are averaging a PAC-best 38.2 points per game. On the other side however, Waynesburg has given up 47 or more points in three of the last four games and at 36.2 points allowed per game, are ranked ninth in the conference.

Last week was another shootout for the Yellow Jackets, who were in a similar situation as the Bison. Geneva jetted out to a 42-24 lead over Waynesburg before a pair of Jackets’ scores brought them within three in the fourth quarter. A Geneva touchdown with 1:42 to play secured the win for the Golden Tornadoes, who won despite 129 yards rushing and three TDs from Billy Becker, although Waynesburg’s efforts were hampered by five turnovers, including four interceptions.

Facing a Yellow Jacket defense that gives up 261 yards through the air per game and 163 on the ground means the Bison offense should have their options open come Saturday, although watching the Jackets on film makes Weaver believe they are much better than the numbers indicate.

“People think by looking at the numbers that to beat Waynesburg, you have to outscore them, but we don’t see it that way,” said Weaver. “They are giving up a lot of points, but they have good personnel defensively. We think a lot of a couple of their lineman, their linebackers, while not freshmen like we’re playing, are underclassmen who are improving and they have playmakers in the secondary. They are fairly young, so they are getting better every week.

“We will go in with the same plan we have every week and that is to achieve balance offensively,” said Weaver. “We need to get the run going early, which we weren’t able to do last week against Westminster, and that will enable us to try to get it to our threats on the perimeter.”

The high-flying Waynesburg offense is based around a big-play passing game, but can also chew up the yards on the ground. Quarterback Brad Dawson leads the PAC in passing yards (1,741) and touchdown passes (15), but is also eighth in the conference in completion percentage (55.7) and has been picked off seven times. His top two targets are Josh Fisher (23 rec., 419 yds., 6 TDs) and Ray Hightower III (22 rec., 332 yds., 2 TDs), while Becker has rushed for 356 yards and six scores on the year.

While Weaver and the Bison must contend with the Waynesburg aerial attack, they are equally concerned with Dawson’s running ability, which comes after recent weeks when running QBs have broken off good amounts of yardage against the Green and White.

“We just did a breakdown of the rushing yards we’ve allowed this year,” said Weaver. “While we’ve been much better against the conventional run this season than we have in the past, we have allowed 75 yards a game to the opposing quarterback. Part of playing defense in college now is containing the running quarterback, which we will be focusing on even more.

“Our goals for the week defensively are to contain the running game and get pressure on Dawson,” said Weaver. “We’ve started to get more pressure the last couple weeks and we need to continue that improvement. They throw deep as much as any team I’ve ever seen, so we want to make them one-dimensional and then really get after the quarterback and keep balls in front of us.”