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BIG PLAYS CRIPPLE BISON UPSET HOPES IN LOSS AT THOMAS MORE

Oct. 22 - CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Despite totaling more yards and first downs than Thomas More, the Bethany College football team’s hopes for an upset were dashed by big plays, as all six Saints’ touchdowns were from 38 yards or longer in a 41-21 TMC victory Saturday.

The defeat drops Bethany’s record to 3-4 overall and 2-4 in the conference, while Thomas More, who was ranked sixth in this week’s AFCA Top 25 poll and eighth in the D3Football.com balloting, is now 7-0 and 6-0 in the league.

The Bison outgained the Saints 74-3 until the final play of the first quarter, yet still trailed 21-7 going to the second period. The BC defense created the first opportunity of the day, as junior LB Gage Lotozo (Somerset, Ohio/Sheridan) broke through on the third play of the game to strip sack TMC quarterback Robert Kues and Lotozo also fell on the loose ball at the hosts’ 15. Five plays later on third and goal, BC sophomore quarterback Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) flicked a three-yard scoring pass to sophomore RB Nico Irizarry (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) and the Bison had a 7-0 lead.

That lead did not stand up for long, as Thomas More’s Kendall Owens reeled in the ensuing kickoff and raced 82 yards for a touchdown to even the count at 7-7. After the teams exchanged punts, Thomas More struck again with the offense on the sideline. This time it was the defense making the play, as Zach Autenrieb picked off Grimard and took it back 40 yards for the score and a 14-7 TMC advantage.

The Thomas More offense came alive on the final play of the first quarter. After being held to just three total yards to that point, Kues connected with Owens for a 76-yard touchdown pass to swell the home team’s margin to 21-7.

Bethany had the first scoring chance of the second quarter as well, as it drove down to the Saints’ 16. However, on fourth-and-six, Grimard was stopped for no gain and the ball turned back over to Thomas More. Late in the quarter, TMC took advantage of a short field to post the final score of the half. Kues threw his second scoring pass of the game, this one covering 38 yards to Adam Rauch and the Saints carried a 28-7 lead into the halftime locker room.

The early stages of the third quarter were highlighted by Thomas More blocking a punt to get good field position in Bison territory. But on the very next play, the BC defense forced a fumble, which sophomore DE Prince Aguzie (Randallstown, Md.) recovered to avert further damage. The Green and White would not be so lucky late in the quarter, as Domonique Hayden broke off a 38-yard touchdown scamper and the Saints were in front by a 35-7 score.

Another Thomas More fumble set up the next Bethany score late in the third quarter. The Bison were forced to punt, but a fumble on the runback was recovered by BC junior Simeon Young (Washington, D.C./McKinley Tech) and the Bison were in business at the Saints’ 37. Two plays later, Grimard tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Daryl Powell (West Point, Va./King William) to cut one score off the deficit.

After forcing a three-and-out on defense, Bethany got the ball back deep in its own territory. The Green and White needed 14 plays to move 90 yards for the next score, with Grimard hooking up with Powell again. This time, the pair connected on a 29-yard scoring play and with the extra point sliced the Thomas More lead down to 35-21.

The Bison would get the ball back with under four minutes to play, but they would not be able to put another dent in the deficit. After BC reached the Thomas More 47, Autenrieb stepped in front of another Grimard aerial to stop the potential scoring drive. Then three plays later, the Saints capped an explosive day when Owens broke free for a 48-yard scoring jaunt to complete the scoring.

The big plays by Thomas More did more than make up for the stat differential between the teams. Bethany held a 398-366 advantage in total yards, recorded 22 first downs to TMC’s 11 and held the ball for 37:49, as compared to 22:11 for the Saints.

Grimard led the Bethany offense by setting career-highs in every passing category. His 33 completions were the second-most in BC single-game history, while his 56 attempts were the third-highest total. Grimard finished the afternoon with 312 passing yards and his three scoring tosses give him 13 for the season. His top target was Powell, who tied the Bethany single-game record with 13 receptions, which covered 151 yards and included two TD receptions.

The BC defense was led by sophomore safety Jamaan Webb (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian), who made nine tackles, and Lotozo, who finished with five stops and the sack.

Bethany will be off next week before returning to action Nov. 5th with a home game against Grove City (1-6, 1-4), who knocked off Saint Vincent 21-16 Saturday for its first win of the season. Kickoff at Bison Stadium on the 5th is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.