Sept. 2 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College football team will look to start off the 2015 season on the right foot, as they travel to Alliance, Ohio to take on the second-ranked Purple Raiders of the University of Mount Union on Saturday afternoon. Full game notes can be viewed below.
The Bison: Bethany enters the 2015 season after a 6-5 campaign in 2014. The Bison finished 5-3 in conference, and are returning 29 letterwinners including 14 starters. Bethany was selected third in the 2015 Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Coaches’ Poll, which was the highest ranking in program history. Five players were named Preseason All-American selections by USA Football Inc., with three of those coming on the defensive side of the ball.
The Purple Raiders: Mount Union finished 14-1 last season, narrowly missing out on a national title. The Purple Raiders advanced to their 10th-straight Stagg Bowl (winning four of those), while capturing their 23rd consecutive conference title. Mount Union was ranked second overall in the D3football.com Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Purple Raiders currently have a 93-game regular season win streak that stretches back to 2005 and haven’t lost their season opener since 1987.
The Series: This week’s contest will mark the tenth meeting all time between the Bison and the Purple Raiders. Mount Union holds a 8-0-1 advantage in nine meetings. The two teams met last season with Mount Union winning 58-7, their first meeting since 1965.
The Last Time They Met: In week one of the 2014 season, the Bison opened a home-and-home series with the Purple Raiders at Bison Stadium. Mount Union, then ranked third in the D3football.com Top 25 poll, defeated the Bison by a 58-7 decision.
The lone score for the Green & White came on a 40-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Tyler Ambush in the third quarter of the contest.
Despite the outcome, the Bison defense showed some of their strengths, helping the Green & White to a +2 turnover margin. They also posted 10 tackles for loss, including 4.0 sacks.
Offensively, Ambush led the way for the Bison with six catches for 94 yards and a TD.
The Coaches: Both Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Mount Union’s Vince Kehres are entering their third seasons at the helm of their respective programs.
Garvey, who spent 7 years as an offensive coordinator, helped build one of the most prolific offenses that Bethany has ever seen. After taking over the ship in 2013, Garvey has helped push the Bison to renewed success, which included the team’s first post-season appearance since the 1980 season in 2014. Last year the Green & White tallied a 6-5 record, the program’s most wins since 2001. Overall, Garvey has posted a regular season mark of 10-10, the second-best win total in school history for a coach through two seasons (H.M. Buland won 12 games between 1920-21).
Kehres enters his third season as head coach of the Purple Raiders after spending 13 years as an assistant under his father, Larry Kehres. Kehres has led the Purple Raiders to a 28-2 record over his first two seasons, which includes two trips to the Stagg Bowl, the NCAA Division III National Championship game.
Senior Leadership: When the Bison take the field for the first time in 2015, the Green & White will be lead by a host of veterans as Bethany boasts 24 seniors on the roster. 14 members of the senior class currently hold starting positions on the Bison’s depth chart, including eight on the offensive and six on the defensive side of the ball.
Field Generals: Two of those returning seniors will look to continue their tremendous impact on either side of the ball as wide receiver Eric Blinn and defensive end Nadim Raddar get set for their final seasons.
Blinn enters the game against the Purple Raiders as the Nation’s active career leader in total receiving yards (3,125), receiving yards per game (100.8) and total receptions 251. The three-time All-PAC and two-time All-Region selection will look to once again lead an offense that sees a new signal caller for the second-consecutive season. Already the Bison’s all-time career leader in a number of categories, Blinn has his sights set on two PAC records. He needs just 19 catches and 79 yards to become the conference’s all-time leader in both categories.
Raddar, who was named a First-Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) in 2014, will once again look to anchor a defense that ranked first in all of Division III in tackles for loss per game (10.9). Last year, Raddar posted 81 total tackles, including 21.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. For his efforts during the ‘14 campaign, Raddar was selected as the PAC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the ECAC DIII South Region Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Solid Foundation: Along with solid wide receiver play, and the return of the team’s leading rusher in Jalen Holmes, the Bison will look to a core group of experienced offensive lineman to help protect a new signal caller. All five starters on the offensive line will be seniors to open the 2015 campaign, including Alex Verikas, Beau Bertus, James Norkus, Ethan Barnes and Tim Walters.
Last season, the offensive line served as one of the lynchpins in a running game that ranked third in the PAC in rushing yards per contest (171.6). The line also did a solid job at protecting the quarterback, ranking third in the conference in sacks allowed (19).
Defensive Prowess: The Bison defense took major strides during the 2014 season and will once again look to be a key focal point in Saturday’s contest. Last season, the Green & White racked up 43 sacks during the season while totaling 120 tackles for loss.
Overall, the Bison allowed 250 yards or less in five separate occasions in 2014, with the team going 4-1 in those instances. With six starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, the Bison will look to contend with a Mount Union offense that ranked among the Nation’s best in most offensive categories in 2014.
Up Next: Next week the Bison will open a two-game home stand when they take on Thiel College in a night game which kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at Bison Stadium. Bethany defeated the Tomcats 45-24 in Greenville, Pa. last season.
Catch the Action: Can’t make it to Alliance, Ohio to catch the season opener? You can check out all the action online. All the links are provided on the Bethany College football schedule page.
Along with all of the ways to watch the game online, fans can tune into Sports Time Ohio at 11 p.m. on Saturday evening to check a tape-delayed replay of the contest with the Purple Raiders. Make sure you check your local listings to see if you get STO.
Check out our game preview with Bison head coach Bill Garvey!