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Bison Football Looks to Grab First Win at Thiel

Sept. 10 - BETHANY, W.Va. - The Bethany College football team (0-1) travels to Greenville, Pa. to take on the Tomcats of Thiel College (1-0) on Saturday, September 13. Bethany will look for their first win of the season as they play a night game at Alumni Stadium for the first time in the history of the matchup. Full game notes can be seen below.

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The Bison: Bethany comes into the contest with the Tomcats having dropped their home opener, 58-7, to The University of Mount Union. In the game, the Bison were led offensively by sophomore Tyler Ambush, who notched six catches for a career-best 94 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Green & White were led by sophomore Khallid Pierce, who totaled six tackles, including 4.0 for loss and one sack.

The Tomcats: Thiel comes into the game having won their first season opener since 2006. Thiel took care of Allegheny College by a score of 28-14. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Radke ran for three touchdowns, and the Tomcats scored four total on the ground in the victory. The win marked Thiel’s first win over Allegheny since 1985.

The Series: This week’s contest will mark the 72nd meeting all-time between the Bison and Tomcats. Thiel leads the series 38-32-1. The Bison have won four of the last five meetings with Thiel, but the Tomcats took last year’s contest by a 30-28 score. The game will also mark the first “non-conference” meeting between the two schools since 1954.

The Last Time They Met: The Bison were upended by the Tomcats for the first time in five seasons in 2013, as they dropped a 30-28 decision to Thiel in Bison Stadium. Thiel took a 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter before the flood gates opened for both offenses. The teams combined to score 35 points in the fourth quarter. For Bethany, Matt Grimard led the way offensively, finishing the day with 305 passing yards and four total touchdowns. Eric Blinn broke the Bison single-season receptions record in the game, making 12 catches to give him 74 on the season. He also totaled 140 yards in the contest. For Thiel, the Tomcats controlled the ground game, totaling 312 yards rushing in the contest. The Tomcats scored four times on the ground, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Thiel’s Josh Wannamaker had a career game, finishing with 238 yards and two touchdowns.

The Coaches: Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Thiel’s Kurt Reiser meet head-to-head for just the second time. Reiser took the first head-to-head meeting last season.

Garvey, who spent 7 years as an offensive coordinator, helped build one of the most prolific offenses that Bethany has ever seen. He led the Bison to a 4-6 mark in 2013, including wins over Grove City (34-31), Waynesburg (27-20) and PAC Champion Washington & Jefferson (24-19). 2013 marked the first time in program history that the Bison had defeated both Waynesburg and W&J in the same season.

Reiser is currently in his sixth season with the Tomcats. During his tenure, Thiel has posted a 10-41 record and captured their first season-opening win under Resier’s reign with the victory over Allegheny last week.    

New Sheriff in Town: Sophomore quarterback Brian Vales played efficiently in his first start as a Bison. The signal caller finished the game against the Purple Raiders completing 14-of-20 passes for 119 yards and a score. More importantly, however, Vales played the whole contest without turning the ball over. Vales became just the third quarterback in the last five seasons to throw a touchdown pass for the Green & White when he connected with sophomore Tyler Ambush on a 40-yard strike in the third quarter last week.

Turnover Battle: The Bison played the entire contest against the Purple Raiders last week mistake free, as Bethany committed zero turnovers against one of the best defenses in the country. On the other side of the ball, the Bison forced three Mount Union fumbles, recovering two. The Bison were +2 in the turnover battle against the Raiders and will look to be just as opportunistic against a Tomcat squad that turned the ball over three times in their contest against Allegheny last week.

Control the Ground: One of the keys to victory for the Bison on Saturday will be how well they handle the Tomcat ground game. Last week, the Bison gave up 145 yards to a stout Mount Union rushing attack, but held the Purple Raiders to just over three yards per carry. Bethany will need a repeat performance from their front seven as the Tomcats ran for the second most yards of any conference team last week. Thiel racked up 227 yards on the ground in just 46 attempts against Allegheny, averaging 4.9 yards per rush in the contest.

Wrangle Radke: The Bison defensive front did a solid job last week containing one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks in Mount Union’s Kevin Burke. The Bison held Burke, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, to -17 total yards rushing on the day. The total proved to be the reigning Gagliardi Award winner’s second-worst rushing performance of his career (-18 yards vs. Wabash in 2011). Once again this week, the Bison will have a chance to see a dual-threat quarterback in Thiel’s Ryan Radke. The sophomore ran for three touchdowns last week in the Tomcat’s victory over Allegheny.

Getting A Leg Up: Pre-Season All-American Stephen Amic returns for his senior campaign, and will play a vital role in the field position battle on Saturday. Last season, Amic led the Presidents’ Athletic Conference in both punting average (38.8) and punts placed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (18). In his first game of the season, the senior punted the ball 15 times for 585 yards (39.0). He also placed two punts inside the 20-yard line, and booted a long of 51 yards in the third quarter of the contest.

Super Sophomores: Sophomore Khallid Pierce and Tyler Ambush made their marks in the first game of the season and will look to continue to be key pieces in the weeks to come. Pierce dominated on the defensive line against Mount Union last week, racking up a career-high 4.0 tackles for loss in the contest. He finished the game with six total tackles, including one sack and a pass breakup. His 4.0 tackles for loss already puts him a third of the way to his total from last season.

Ambush also had a breakout game for the Bison in week 1. The sophomore wideout caugh six passes for a career-best 94 yards. He also scored the team’s lone touchdown on a 40-yard strike in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game. Look for the sophomores to continue to make big contributions this week against the Tomcats.

Up Next: Next week the Bison will travel to Westminster College to officially open Presidents’ Athletic Conference play. The game will start at 1:00 p.m.

Thiel will open their conference schedule with the Saints of Thomas More College.

Light It Up: The night-game between the Bison and Tomcats will mark the first time in the 72-game series that Bethany will play under the lights at Alumni Stadium. The two programs have played night games before, however, those games were played at Greenville High School.