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Bison Football Set for Conference Opener Against Westminster

Sept. 17 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College football team (1-1) will look to carry the momentum from a 51-16 victory over Thiel into their conference season, as they open Presidents’ Athletic Conference play against Westminster College (1-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Full game notes can be viewed below.

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The Bison: The Bison rebounded from a week one loss by drubbing Thiel College, 51-16, in the team’s home opener. In the victory, the Bison dominated the first half, outscoring the Tomcats 35-3 over the first two quarters. Junior running back Jalen Holmes got the scoring party started with an early 65-yard touchdown run in the opening minutes. The Green & White then added a touchdown run by senior quarterback Lincon Reyes before receiving three, second-quarter touchdowns from senior wideout Eric Blinn.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second half, with the Bison once again receiving long scoring plays from both Holmes and Blinn. Holmes scored on a 58-yard run, while Blinn scored his third touchdown through the air from 41 yards out. The last score of the contest also belonged to the Bison as senior Martin McCoy blocked a punt, leading to a safety and the 51-16 final.

In the win, Bethany was led by Holmes and Blinn on the offensive side. Holmes finished the game with 166 yards and two scores, while Blinn totaled 12 catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a score on the ground.

Defensively, Larry Kpadehyea led the way with 13 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. Freshman Daniel Gibson also had a big day, finishing the game with eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

The Titans: Westminster went into week two with an upset on their mind. Facing the #14-ranked Presidents of Washington & Jefferson, the Titans held a 24-14 lead late in the third quarter as Jametrius Bentley caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Paul Columbo, with just over three minutes to play.

Despite taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Titans eventually succumbed to the Presidents, as they were outscored 21-7 in the final frame. The run by the Presidents handed Westminster their first loss of the season, 35-31.

The Westminster defense was solid against a powerful Washington & Jefferson rushing attack, holding the Presidents to just 87 total yards and 2.2 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, Westminster totaled 199 yards rushing led by sophomore Dominique McKinley’s 163 yards.

Defensively, Westminster was led by junior Mac Quinn, who finished the game with 8.5 tackles. Senior Richard Ellebie tallied two sacks in the game, while sophomore Todd Jeter posted an interception and a defensive touchdown.

The Series: This week’s contest between the Bison and Westminster will mark the 54th all-time meeting between the two programs. The Titans own the advantage in the series, leading Bethany 39-12-2. The two teams have split the last two meetings in the series, with each school taking a game on their opponents’ home turf.

The Last Time They Met: The Bison were eyeing to end a losing streak against the Titans, having not won against Westminster since the 2010 season. For the second-straight week, the Green & White needed the help of a second-half surge. Trailing 14-7 at the break, the Bison defense stood strong in the second half, hold the Westminster offense to three, three-and-outs, and a turnover on downs in regulation. The Green & White also used a Dion Williams interception late in the game to send the contest into overtime tied at 14-14.

Getting the first possession of the overtime period, the Bison needed just four plays to find the end zone as Jalen Holmes scampered in from 14 yards out. Bethany then stood tall on the defensive end, as Martin McCoy knocked down a fourth-down pass to preserve the victory for the Bison.

In the victory, Eric Blinn paced the Bethany offense, catching 11 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Westminster, meanwhile, was led by quarterback Paul Columbo’s two rushing touchdowns. He finished the game with 65 yards on 14 carries.

Defensively, the Bison wreaked havoc in the Westminster backfield, totaling 13 tackles for loss and five sacks. Donavan Hayden led the way with 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception. Nadim Raddar totaled 2.0 sacks in the contest, as did Larry Kpadehyea.

The Coaches: Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Wesminster’s Scott Benzel meet head-to-head for just the second time, with Garvey holding a 1-0 advantage after the Bison’s 21-14 victory last season.

Garvey is currently in his third season at the helm of the Green & White and has tallied a regular season record of 11-11. His 11 regular season wins marks the third most all time by a head coach through 22 games in Bethany history. He currently trails two-time PAC Champion head coach Bob Goin, as well as coach H.A. Watson, who each went 12-10 through their first 22 contests.

Garvey led the Bison back to the post season for the first time since the 1980 season, as the Green & White earned a spot in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Southeast Bowl in 2014. He also guided Bethany to their first winning season since 2001.

Benzel is in his second season with the Titans after serving 11 seasons in the FCS with Division I schools St. Francis and Robert Morris University. Benzel guided the Titans to a 4-6 record in his first season, which included wins over Thiel (40-28), Saint Vincent (28-14), Grove City (41-7) and Geneva (38-3). Dating back to last season, Benzel is currently 4-1 in his last five games.

Blinnsanity: Coming off a game against Thiel in which he shattered two career records, senior Eric Blinn will once again look to be a key part of the Bethany offense. Last week, Blinn tallied 12 catches for 185 yards and three scores, he also added a touchdown run on one carry.

During the contest, Blinn set the PAC career mark for receiving yards, surpassing W&J’s Alex Baroffio for first all time (3,328). He also surpassed the Bethany career mark for receiving touchdowns (26), breaking former Bison standout Matt Cruse’s all-time record.

Look for Blinn to once again be on his game as he goes against a Westminster squad which he has seen success against before. In three contests against the Titans, Blinn has totaled 21 catches for 305 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and two scores, despite missing most of the contest during his sophomore season due to an injury.

When the Bison and Titans take the field on Saturday, Blinn will be in line for another PAC record as he currently stands just two receptions shy of breaking Barroffio’s all-time conference receptions record.

Balanced Offense: Despite Blinn making headlines last week against the Tomcats, the Bison got back to what helped them succeed a season ago. Totaling 486 yards of offense in the win over Thiel, the Green & White posted 245 yards on the ground, while netting 241 in the air. Holmes was a key part of the offense, posting career highs in both rushing yards (166) and yards per carry (13.8).

The balanced attack for the Bison led to 9.5 yards per play in the contest, including five different touchdowns of over 30 yards or more. The Green & White notched touchdown runs of 65 and 58 yards, as well as hitting TD passes of 30, 41 and 44 yards.

Controlling the Line: In the victory over Thiel last week, the Bison saw renewed success in controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Bethany allowed just one sack on the day while helping the Bison rushing game average nearly a first down per carry (245 yards on just 26 carries). The front five pushed the defense of the Tomcats backwards all day, losing just 14 total yards over the span of the contest.

Defensively, the Green & White got back on track after a tough first week against Mount Union. The Bison “D” was back to their old tricks, totaling 12 tackles for loss in the game, while also posting seven sacks. They stymied the Thiel rushing attack, which had gained over 300 yards in the previous week, allowing just 104 yards on 43 carries (2.4 yards per attempt.)

This week, the Bison will look to once again control the line against a Westminster squad that had success in their own right against Washington & Jefferson last week.

Against the Presidents in week two, the Titans handled the line of scrimmage in the running game, totaling nearly 200 yards rushing while holding W&J to just 87 total rushing yards on 40 carries. Washington & Jefferson still managed nearly 300 yards of offense, but on 75 plays (4.0 yards per play) against the tough Titans “D”.

PAC Opener: With the additions of both Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, the PAC changed the conference schedule in 2014. As such, the matchup between the Bison and Titans will serve as both team’s conference opener. The Bison went 5-3 in PAC play last season, while Westminster posted a 4-4 mark.

Next Up: The Bison will travel to Waynesburg University for a 1:30 start, while Westminster will host Thomas More for a 1 p.m. kickoff.