Sept. 20 - GROVE CITY, Pa. – An offensive shootout in the first half turned into a defensive struggle in the second half, but it was a Grove City touchdown with 1:59 left in the game that gave the Wolverines a 41-35 triumph over the Bethany College football team Saturday night at Robert E. Thorn Field.
The loss dropped the Bison to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the PAC, while the Wolverines raised their marks to 2-1 and 1-0.
Grove City's Brian Mercer scored on a two-yard touchdown with 1:59 to play for the go-ahead score and the Wolverines converted the two-point conversion to build the 41-35 lead. Bethany would reach the GCC 45 on their final drive, but a sack and a penalty halted their momentum and the final play of the game was a Hail Mary which was knocked down to preserve the victory for Grove City.
The second half was a far cry from the first 30 minutes, as the two teams combined for more than 600 total yards and 68 points. Following a Bethany turnover on the opening drive of the game, the squads alternated touchdowns the rest of the half. Grove City had an extra point blocked and missed a two-point conversion, which allowed the Bison to take a 35-33 lead into halftime on a one-yard scoring pass from freshman QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) to sophomore RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) with just three seconds left in the second quarter.
Bethany out-gained the hosts 390-372, but was hurt by three turnovers, two which led directly to Wolverine scores and one that stopped a BC drive inside the Grove City 10. Santini paced the offense with 17 carries for 87 yards and one TD (30), while also catching six passes for 46 yards, including the scoring reception. Freshman RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) gained 65 yards in the game as well, which included a 14-yard scoring run.
Bethany's passing game was led by Smith, who was 15-of-22 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to the Santini score, he also rifled a 78-yard scoring pass to junior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier), which was the 18th of Cruse's career to tie the Bethany career record (T.J. Parker). For the game, Cruse had 107 yards on five receptions, which give him 100 for his career to make him just the sixth BC receiver in school history to reach triple digits in catches.
Bethany’s fifth touchdown came from freshman QB Jeff Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin), who scampered three yards for his first career score early in the second quarter, which came just four plays after he caught a 35-yard pass from senior WR Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) to begin the scoring march.
The top defender for the Green and White was SS John George with 10 tackles, while junior DL John Gyure (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood) made seven tackles, including three sacks.
Grove City was led by Mercer, who rushed for 126 yards and four touchdowns, which covered 14, 2, 5 and 2 yards. QB Andrew DiDonato threw for 186 yards and rushed for two scores as well. Defensively, Adam Eichler led all tacklers in the contest with 14 hits, including a sack.
The Bison are off next week and return to the field Oct. 4 when they host Thomas More at 2 p.m. in a Homecoming contest.