Sept. 20 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After winning their first two games by an average of 38 points, the Bethany College football team will face a stern test Saturday when they travel to Geneva (Pa.) College (2-1). Kickoff at Geneva’s Reeves Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.
After a 24-7 victory in their opener at Hiram (Ohio) College, the Bison moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2001 with a 66-7 triumph over Saint Vincent (Pa.) College last Saturday. BC’s defense limited the Bearcats to 117 total yards, while the Green and White offense rolled up a school-record 739 total yards, including 482 on the ground, also a school record. The victory was a good one on many levels for head coach Tim Weaver’s program.
“It’s always great to win your home opener and was good for the program to be able to get everyone on the roster into the game,” said Weaver. “We challenged the team after Hiram because we played hard, but we didn’t play very well and our kids stepped up and did both last week.
“It was also a nice win because good teams beat teams they should,” said Weaver. “No offense to Hiram or Saint Vincent but their programs aren’t at the same stage of development as ours, so it was good for us to take care of business.”
One area where the Bison significantly improved from week one to week two was scoring in the red zone. Against Hiram, Bethany was inside their opponents’ 20 six times but came away with points in just three of those occasions. The Saint Vincent contest was a far different story, as BC went 8-for-8 in converting from inside the red zone.
“Part of it was execution and part of it was emphasis,” said Weaver. “We told our guys after Hiram that the margin of victory would have been a lot different if we had converted in the red zone. Now, we believe you can’t ask for a ton of things from a team every week, and all we emphasized against Hiram was to play hard and protect the football. Heading into week two, we added efficiency in the red zone and the kids responded.”
A major focus for Bethany defensively coming into the season was stopping the run after they allowed 234 yards per game on the ground last season. This season, the Bison are allowing only 81.5 yards per game, including just 45 on 26 carries in the Saint Vincent contest.
“It has more to do with experience than anything else,” said Weaver. “We are able to play more people up front this year and those people are playing at a higher level than they did a year ago. Plus, we have tackled very well in the first two weeks, which was a major problem all of last year.”
The experience and depth will be needed this week against Geneva, who comes into the contest off a 37-14 rout over Westminster (Pa.) College last Saturday. The Golden Tornadoes were out-gained in the contest 309-174 and had just eight first downs to the Titans’ 19. But Geneva blocked three punts in the game and ran one back for a score, while also taking two interceptions to the end zone. Overall, the Golden Tornadoes forced five turnovers and turned the ball over just once.
The best match-up of the night will come when Bethany’s #1 ranked rushing attack in the nation (352) goes against Geneva’s top-ranked rushing defense in the PAC, which has allowed 101 yards on 100 carries for an average of 1.0 per carry and 33.7 per game. Leading GC’s defensive efforts is senior linebacker Bradley Roman, who leads the team with 26 tackles and is tops in the conference with three fumbles forced.
Another player to watch will be DE Brian Wilson, who leads the PAC with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Wilson (6-2, 190) is a prime example of what Weaver is most concerned about with Geneva’s defense and that is lack of ideal size is more than made up for with great team speed.
“This is the best front seven we’ve played in my 13 games here,” said Weaver. “They have very good linebackers, who mix well with their defensive line in their scheme, which emphasizes speed over great size. This is clearly the biggest challenge to our offense this season but we are going to line up and stay committed to the run. We also need to keep them off-balance by spreading the ball around.”
While Geneva hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers on offense, they have found a good balance between the rushing and passing games. They are averaging 167 yards per game through the air and 156 yards on the ground, leaving them sixth in the conference in total offense (323.0).
Quarterback Bobby Bondi is the Tornadoes trigger man on offense, as he is completing 53.4 percent of his passes for 498 yards and two scores, while also rushing for 193 yards, seventh-most in the league, and three TDs. His favorite targets through the air are Luke Duriancik (14 rec., 130 yds.) and Scott Koenig (14 rec., 101 yds., 1 TD).
“They are very balanced offensively, averaging around 160 on the ground and through the air,” said Weaver. “They can run two different offenses. One is their spread set, which they are still effective running the ball from, and more of a Wing-T set. Bondi is as athletic as we’ve seen. He has a great arm but would make a great running back if they moved him there. Overall, they present a lot of challenges for us to game plan against.”
Because of the test Geneva, an NAIA scholarship institution who is in its first year of transitioning to the NCAA Division III, brings to Saturday night’s game, Weaver says his team needs their best players to be at the top of their games for BC to move to 3-0.
“First key for us is to adjust quickly to the different speed of the game as compared to the first two weeks,” said Weaver. “We also need to protect the ball on special teams since Geneva blocked four kicks last week. But we also need to make big plays. In order for us to beat a good team, we need our best players to step up and make plays.”