Oct. 16 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College football team opens the second-half of its’ season as the Bison travel to Waynesburg, Pa. for a bout with the Yellow Jackets of Waynesburg University. Bethany comes into the game in a four-way tie at the top of the PAC as Waynesburg, Thomas More, Washington & Jefferson, and the Bison all come into the weekend at 2-1 in conference play.
This game will mark the 49th all-time meeting between the two schools with the Yellow Jackets holding a 26-16-6 advantage. In the most recent contest, the Yellow Jackets posted a 23-21, come from behind victory on a field goal with 16 seconds remaining in the contest.
Last time out
In the Bison’s previous contest, Bethany defeat Washington & Jefferson, 24-19 for their second-consecutive victory at home. The Bison came out of the gate strong as they jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead and held on for the five-point victory. The key play in the game came with 49 seconds to play and the Presidents’ driving for the game winning score. Sophomore defensive back Aaron Frye (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) made a spectacular interception in the end zone to seal the victory for the Bison and end a 30-year drought against W&J.
Individually, Phil Acrie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley) turned in a great performance, totaling 200 yards of offense (126 rushing and 74 receiving) as well as two touchdowns.
“It was no surprise to us that Phil was able to go off like that,” said head coach Bill Garvey. “We feel like he is capable of having games like that all the time. The maturation of the offensive line has been a big reason for our success up front the last couple of weeks and has allowed Phil to make some great plays. We see no reason why that shouldn’t continue.
In the contest, the Bison dominated the time of possession, holding a 41:06-18:54 advantage on the clock. The team also found success in the running game, racking up 228 yards on the ground, compared to W&J’s 166 yards.
“We came out focused and ready to go from the first snap of the game against W&J,” remarked Coach Garvey. “I feel like the contest was our best so far this year. We came out believing that we could win, and that confidence carried us through the game.
The Yellow Jackets of Waynesburg are also coming off back-to-back victories including a 35-21 win over Thiel College, and most recently, a 38-0 win over Grove City College. In the contest against Grove City, the Yellow Jackets posted 444 total yards and held the Wolverines to just 266, including a net of 54 total yards on the ground.
Junior quarterback Carter Hill totaled 332 yards and four touchdowns through the air, spreading the ball around to seven different receivers. Andrew English was on the receiving end of six of those passes while Bernie Thompson hauled in five catches for a team-high, 73 yards.
Last season, the contest between the Bison and Yellow Jackets came down to the wire, as Waynesburg came away with the two-point victory, 23-21, on a field goal by Alex Henry with just 16 seconds to play in the game.
The two teams were evenly match as Waynesburg barely outgained the Bison in total yardage, 419-394. The Yellow Jackets racked up the majority of their yards on the ground, gaining 325 total yards in the running game, while the Bison took to the air, totaling 261 yards in the aerial attack.
Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) totaled 261 yards passing on 25 completions and Ed Holmes scored twice while racking up 121 receiving yards on eight catches.
Bethany took a 19-7 halftime lead and held a 21-7 advantage with 11:05 to play in the third quarter, but the Yellow Jackets rallied with 16, second-half points to get the victory.
“Last year we just couldn’t finish what we started,” remarked Garvey. “It happened to us a few times last season that we would take leads into the second half and not hold on. This year we have started to be able to do that by focusing more and being accountable on every play throughout the game.”
Tale of the tape
Waynesburg comes into the contest as the fourth-highest scoring offense in the conference, averaging 34.0 points per game. The Yellow Jackets also rank second in the PAC in passing yards per game (306.0) and lead all conference teams in passing touchdowns with 18.
Hill is the main reason for that success as he ranks second in the conference in passing yards per game (302.7) and in passing efficiency (152.0) completing 66.7 percent of his passes while throwing just one interception through six games this season.
Hill’s main target this season has been Andrew English who comes into the contest with 41 catches for 497 yards and four touchdowns. He also thrown at least three touchdown passes to four different receivers.
Defensively for Waynesburg, the Yellow-Jackets rank second in the PAC in opponent’s points per game (23.7) but allow teams to gain 386.8 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the conference.
Bryan Gary leads the way for Waynesburg in total tackles with 45, but Brandon Fedorka has been solid for the Yellow Jackets as well. Fedorka has 12.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks through six games this season.
The Bison rank fifth in the conference in points per game (29.4) but can move the ball up and down the field as the leagues best in total offense, averaging 450.8 yards per game. Bethany is averaging 336.4 yards per game through the air and 109.3 on the ground.
Grimard comes into the game as the conference’s best, averaging 336.4 passing yards per contest while completing over 60% of his passes for 1,682 yards through just the first half of the season. His top-target, sophomore Eric Blinn, (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) is the top wideout in the PAC, having caught 51 passes for 685 yards and a score. His 13.4 yards per catch average ranks second in the conference and his 10.2 receptions per game also lead the league.
Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) anchors the Bison defense, leading the team with 37.5 total tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss. Freshman Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) has also made a name for himself as a disrupter of backfields ranking third in the PAC in sacks with five through the first half of the year.
Keys to The Game
The Bison and Yellow Jackets both bring high-powered offenses to the table and coach Garvey says that whoever gets extra possessions off of turnovers could be in a great position to win the ball game:
“Ball security is probably the biggest key to this matchup,” says Garvey. “Last year the game came down to the final possession and we expect that this game will be just as competitive. We can’t make mistakes out there and give them more possessions than they should have because whoever has more possessions in this game could very well come out on top.”
When these two teams meet Saturday, two of the Nation’s best quarterbacks will be center stage as Grimard and Hill square off. Hill ranks second in all of Division III in total passing yards (1,816) and has thrown 18 touchdowns through six games this season.
Grimard, having played in one less contest, has amassed 1,682 yards and is averaging 336.4 per game. Recently Grimard also earned the distinction of being the first player in Bethany history to eclipse 10,000 total yards for his career.
“It is going to be fun to see two great quarterbacks go against each other,” said Garvey of the matchup. “They have a very talented player in Hill, and we feel that Matt is one of the best in the nation. It should be a great game, an whoever has the better day could see his team get the win.”