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Sept. 30 - BETHANY, W.Va. –The Bethany College football team (1-3, 0-1) will try to hand Waynesburg (2-1, 2-0) its first PAC loss of the season Saturday when the Yellow Jackets come to Bison Stadium for a 2 p.m. Homecoming kickoff.

The Bison are coming off a heart-breaking defeat last week, as junior RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.), who broke the school’s career touchdown record earlier in the game, was stopped inside the one-yard line on the final play of the game in a 37-33 loss to Geneva. Walker, who rushed for 74 yards and two scores to give him 32 career touchdowns, and freshman QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut), who gained 140 yards on the ground, paced a BC rushing attack that churned out 236 yards. However, the numbers were no consolation for losing such a tight game, although head coach Tim Weaver did see silver linings in the loss.

“We talk a lot about difference between this year’s team and the program as a whole and Saturday’s loss was tough for the 2010 team under the circumstances,” said Weaver. “But for the program, there were a lot of positives from Saturday. We played hard and very well for most of the game, competed every play and showed we can play with the better teams on our schedule.

“We had very young players like C.J. Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla/University Christian) and Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) step up with their first career touchdowns, Matt made some good throws and continued to run the ball very well and we cut our rushing yards allowed against Geneva down from last year by a significant amount,” said Weaver. “All of our mistakes are very correctable. We ask our guys to compete to the very end and they did that and when you combine that with how young most of our players are, that’s very exciting for the future of the program.

“However, you play to win the game and when you come so close and fall short, it hurts a lot,” said Weaver.

A key development for the Bison so far this year has been the play on both lines. On the offensive side, Bethany is ranked second in the PAC with 227.5 rushing yards per game and has allowed only five sacks, the third-fewest in the PAC. The unit, which is headlined by junior center Cory Potter (Akron, Ohio/Green), a Second Team All-PAC selection last year, also features a trio of sophomores whose quick progress under early playing time brought on by injuries has been a major bonus for the Bethany offense.

“Although we are still missing two projected starters, our injury situation isn’t nearly as nightmarish as it was last year,” said Weaver. “Because of all the injuries we took last year, we knew coming in this season if someone went down, we would be able to plug in guys who have played a lot of football. The sophomores have really come together quickly, especially Doug Murray (New Cumberland, W.Va./Oak Glen), who we thought might still be a year away but he’s developed quickly and has a really bright future. We also made a good move by bringing (senior) Matt Swartling (New Martinsville, W.Va./Magnolia) over from the defensive line and he played every snap of the King’s game.

“It’s no mystery as to what we will do on offense,” said Weaver. “We are going to run the ball and to have the success we’ve had is a tribute to the guys up front.”

Bethany’s defensive line has also played well this season. The Bison are fourth in the PAC in rushing defense with 118.5 yards allowed after surrendering more than 226 per game last year. The Green and White pass rush also has eight sacks this year in four games, nearly surpassing the total of 10 through all of 2009. Junior Kasib Taalib-Din (New York, N.Y./Central Park East) leads the team with three sacks and his work with fellow DE Robert Baker (Colquitt, Ga./Miller County) have helped the Bison line made big strides, although even brighter days are ahead once the youthful secondary becomes more experienced.

“The improvement in run defense is strictly because we’ve had the same guys out there together and they know where they need to be and how to shed blocks,” said Weaver. “Our two defensive ends can put pressure on you now, which is where we’ve struggled in the past. Kasib has more sacks but Robert has played just as well and they both have a lot of football left for us.

“We have 50 blitzes in the playbook, but only run two because we are so young in the secondary,” said Weaver. “Once they become a little more experienced, we will be able to send more, but for right now, we know we have guys who can win in one-on-one situations and that helps.”

That BC defense will face a red-hot Waynesburg offense this weekend, as the Yellow Jackets are second in the PAC in scoring with 37.0 points per game and coming off a 42-16 beating of Grove City last Saturday. Behind 200 passing yards and three TDs from back-up QB Josh Graham, who was subbing for injured starter Brad Dawson, Waynesburg rolled to their second straight PAC win. The Jackets can also run the ball, as they are third right behind the Bison in the league rankings with 160.0 yards per game and Justin Falcon piled up 110 yards in the Grove City victory.

Regardless of who is under center for Waynesburg, Weaver knows his team, which is surrendering 286.8 passing yards per game, could have trouble slowing down the Yellow Jacket attack.

“Waynesburg presents match-up problems, not only because they are talented but because of their depth at quarterback,” said Weaver. “Both Dawson and Graham can make the throws and know where their advantages are against us. Falcon gave them a big boost last week but their freshman (Bertrand) Ngampa (165 yards, two TDs) will be a good back in this league too. They also have a physical offensive line and overall, their offensive is clicking pretty well right now.

“On our end, we’ll need to keep it simple on our defensive backs,” said Weaver. “They are playing their fifth college game, so we just need to make sure they know where they need to be and understand we are still going to have freshmen mistakes.”

The Yellow Jacket defense was young and inexperienced last year too and it showed, as they gave up 35 or more points in six contests. Taking their lumps has paid off however, as WU is third in scoring defense (20.0) and third in total defense (283.0) this season. After giving up 38 points in the opening loss to Wilkes, Waynesburg held Thiel to six points and Grove City to 16 points and just 297 yards. Cornerbacks Sean Hunt (three) and Mike Czulewicz (two) lead the conference in interceptions for Waynesburg, who has picked off a league-high eight passes. They also have one of the defensive lineman in the conference, as Daryl Moore Jr. is second in sacks (four) and tied for third in tackles-for-loss (seven).

“They are a sound, solid defensive football team with good players at every level,” said Weaver. “Their two defensive tackles, as a pair, are as good as we’ll see. They have linebackers who can run and are physical and defensive backs who can make plays.

“You look at the dominant defensive players they’ve had in the past like (Scott) Cree and (Mike) Czerwien and they were expected to make the drive-killing plays,” said Weaver. “They don’t have that now and instead just play good, solid team defense where anyone can make that play.”

If the Bison want to celebrate a win on Homecoming in front of a big crowd, Weaver’s says his defense needs to eliminate huge gains, the offense must keep trying to establish the passing attack to go with the potent ground game and the special teams needs to duplicate their effort from last week.

“We need to mature to the point defensively where we’re not giving up half the other team’s yards on four plays,” said Weaver. “We need to make teams execute and avoid the big play. Offensively, we have to keep working to have balance. We started to throw better against Geneva and we need to continue improving to prevent people from loading up to stop the run. And we need to be sound in the kicking game because they have a good returner and good kicker. Our special teams play overall was very good on Saturday, which we need to continue.”