Oct. 27 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Senior QB Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse) threw for 239 yards and three scores, as the Bethany College football team raced out to a 28-7 halftime lead and went on to a 35-14 victory over visiting Thomas More (Ky.) College Saturday.
The win evens the Bison’s record at 4-4 on the season and raises them to 2-3 in the PAC, while the Saints fall to 4-4 and 2-3.
Thomas More forced a three-and-out from the Bison offense to open the game, then moved down to the BC 42 before turning the ball over on downs. Bethany followed with a 10-play, 58-yard drive to put the first points of the day on the board. Highlighting the march was Joyner tossing a 28-yard pass to freshman RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) and a 15-yard strike to junior WR Brad Zink (Washington Court House, Ohio/Miami Trace) on third and eight deep in TMC territory. Freshman FB John Rhodes (Garrettsville, Ohio/Garfield) culminated the drive with a one-yard plunge into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Bethany’s defense would set up the next Green and White score, as on the first play following the touchdown, senior LB Kellen Lieb (Farmington, Pa./Uniontown) picked off a pass at the Thomas More 31. The Bison would shrug off two penalties to find paydirt five plays later, as Joyner, who was 3-for-3 for 35 yards on the drive, tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to junior WR Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) to roll BC’s lead up to 14-0 late in the first quarter.
With Bethany’s offense and defense playing well, it was the special team’s turn in the second quarter. Thomas More punted from their 20 on a fourth and 10 and tackled Bethany sophomore Matthew Dahle (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox) at the TMC 42. However, a running into the kicker penalty was accepted by the Saints and they kicked again. This time, Dahle corralled the kick at his own 38 and broke loose for a 62-yard punt return for a score to swell the BC cushion to 21-0. The touchdown return is the first by a Bison since Kurt Peterson took a punt back in 1980.
The Bison tacked on another score just before halftime, as they moved 58 yards in six plays, with Joyner capping the march by finding sophomore WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) for a 17-yard scoring pass. However, Thomas More’s offense finally got on track once they got the ball back, as they needed just five plays and 33 seconds to move 55 yards, with QB Joey Zerhusen throwing a 22-yard TD pass to Kyle James to make it a 28-7 Bethany lead going into halftime.
The teams swapped punts on their first two drives to begin the second half and Thomas More drove to the Bethany 34 before once again turning the ball over on downs. A short time later, Joyner would fire his third scoring pass of the day, as he lofted a pass over the middle to McNeil, who broke a couple tackles and out ran the defense for a 50-yard touchdown reception to push the Bethany lead back to four scores at 35-7.
The Saints would collect their second touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter on a great catch in the corner of the end zone by John Resch on an eight-yard scoring reception to make it 35-14 with 14:15 to play. But that would be the final score of the game, as the Bison offense went to the ground to kill the clock and secure the victory. BC took over at their own 10 with 10:40 left and never gave up the ball, as they went 5-for-5 on third down conversions to run out the clock and finish the game with a time of possession advantage of nearly 17 minutes (38:26-21:34).
Bethany’s offense finished with exactly 400 yards of offense, including 136 on the ground and 264 through the air. The ground game was paced by freshman RB Nick Czapor (Liberty Boro, Pa./South Allehgheny), as he ran for 50 yards and also helped out in the air, as he tossed a 25-yard completion.
The rest of the damage in the passing attack was done by Joyner, as he was 16-for-31 for 239 yards and three scores. His favorite receivers on the afternoon were McNeil, who pulled in five passes for 88 yards and a pair of scores, and Cruse, who nabbed five balls for 70 yards and one TD. Cruse now has seven scoring receptions this year, leaving him two away from T.J. Parker’s 2005 record of nine touchdown catches with two games to play.
The BC defensive corps were paced by Lieb, who posted six solos tackles and the INT, while sophomore DB Michael Salters (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox) also had six stops and an interception. For the game, Bethany limited a Thomas More rushing attack that entered the game averaging better than 150 yards per contest to just 30 yards on 18 carries.
The Saints offense saw Zerhusen put the ball in the air 51 times, with 24 completions for 313 yards and the two scores. TMC’s defense was anchored by LB Matt Clark with 14 hits and DB Les Colegrove with 11 tackles and one interception.
Bethany will play their final home game of the season next Saturday when they host Carnegie Mellon (Pa.) University at Bethany Field at 1 p.m. The Tartans improved to 4-4 this season with an 18-13 triumph over Washington (Mo.) University Saturday. Next week’s game will also be the final home contest for 10 Bison seniors, who will be honored prior to kickoff.