Oct. 16 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College football team (2-4, 0-3) will try to put an end to a four-game losing streak Saturday when they host Westminster (Pa.) College (3-3, 1-2) at 1:30 p.m. at Bethany Field.
The Bison’s skid hit four last Saturday with a 45-7 loss to undefeated Waynesburg (Pa.) University. The stifling Yellow Jacket defense allowed just 113 total yards and five first downs to the Bison, while scoring 31 points in the second and third quarters to blow the game open. BC’s lone score was a 31-yard scoring pass from senior QB Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse) to sophomore WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) late in the third quarter.
Despite the end result, head coach Tim Weaver saw some positives in the defeat, including a solid effort from his rush defense against the #1 back in the country, Robert Heller, who ran for 130 yards (4.5 per carry) and two scores after entering the game averaging 208 per contest.
“I thought we did a good job on rush defense,” said Weaver. They had a good amount of yards, but I’m more of a yards-per-carry guy and we held them to their season average coming into the game. We aren’t a team that can just stone someone at the line of scrimmage, but we’re working hard and we’ll get there.
“Overall, I thought we played really hard,” said Weaver. “Fact is, we just played a much better team on Saturday. It’s good for us as a program, as this stage of our growth, to see a team like that, see how they execute, how strong they are and how important player development is in the off-season.”
Turnovers continued to play a factor in recent Bison games. After committing just two in the first three games, Bethany has turned the ball over nine times in the last three outings, including a pair of interceptions that were turned into 14 Waynesburg points. According to Weaver, they may be a result of players trying too hard.
“Turnovers are the single biggest factor in our recent struggles,” said Weaver. “And we’ve had them in all phases of our game, including two on special teams. I wish I had an answer for it. I think a little bit of it is guys pressing a little, trying to do too much. Mistakes that aren’t made in practice show up on game day.”
An area of concern for the Bethany defense is the lack of pressure they’ve been able to generate on the quarterback. Through six games this season, BC is ranked seventh in the PAC with just 10 sacks. That will have to change this week when the Green and White takes on a Westminster team that is ranked second in the league in passing offense (206.8).
“For us, it’s about getting more pressure at the right times,” said Weaver. “It’s also a challenge to the defensive line to get to the quarterback more. As a whole, it’s also about our defense taking the next step of making plays in one-on-one situations. Whether it’s a defensive lineman beating an offensive lineman, someone in the secondary making a play on a ball in the air or someone making a tackle on a guy as soon as they catch the ball, those are the plays we need to start making consistently in order to get better.”
Westminster will be looking to break out of a two-game slide on Saturday when they invade Bethany. Their latest loss was a 58-18 setback to #8 Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) College. The Presidents scored 30 second quarter points to build a 44-12 halftime lead and cruise to the victory, despite three touchdowns from RB Chad Rosatelli.
Although the Titan passing game, led by sophomore QB Kevin Franz (929 yards, 65 percent completion rate, seven TDs) and WR Brett Ziegler (24 rec., 351 yards, three TDs), draws a lot of attention, Westminster has a fairly balanced offense. Led by RB Nick McKolosky (517 yards, three TDs), they are picking up more than 111 yards per game on the ground. Although the Bison did reasonably well against Waynesburg’s rushing attack last week by putting extra people near the line of scrimmage, Weaver says don’t expect anything special this week to try to take away one part or another of the Titan offense.
“We are going to play our game,” said Weaver. “We understand how balanced they are. Rosatelli and Ziegler can threaten from both sides of the formation and McKolosky is having a good year. But we aren’t going to change ourselves. We need to worry about getting guys in position to make plays.”
Westminster’s defense, which has forced a PAC-low five turnovers, is led by LB Jordan Blinn. He has a team-leading 45 tackles, while DE Andrew Robison has 42 stops and leads the team with five sacks. While the Titans are ranked third in the league against the run (113.8 yards per game), they are surrendering 177.5 yards through the air, seventh in the circuit.
Those numbers don’t mean a lot to Weaver, who is just interested in getting his offense back on track following last week’s difficulties.
“You have to give Waynesburg a lot of the credit for last week,” said Weaver. “But our job is to get our guys back. We want to run the ball effectively this week and also try to change field position as much as we can. That is going to take a total team effort. We need to get off the field on third down on defense and cover kicks well on special teams. And offensively, we don’t need to score every time we have the ball. We just need to make a few first downs so we don’t end up playing on a short field all the time like we did last week.”
Although Bethany is in the midst of their longest losing streak of the short Weaver tenure, the second-year head coach says his team is still on track for rebuilding the program into a consistent winner and that comes from players who are still putting in strong efforts every day in practice.
“While we’ve lost a few games, there hasn’t been a drop off in practice intensity,” said Weaver. “Our guys are still coming to work and get better every day in practice.”
“I was told when I took this job that the second and third years are the hardest in rebuilding a program,” said Weaver. “There’s a lot of film on us out there and we aren’t sneaking up on people anymore. And we don’t want to survive by running trick plays and gimmicks. We are going to run what we need to so we can get better and have a base to go back on when the freshmen and sophomores that are playing now have become juniors and seniors.”