Nov. 6 - BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College football team will look to end a two-game skid as they travel to Crestview Hills, Ky. to take on the Saints of Thomas More College on Saturday, November 9.
The meeting will be just the ninth between the two programs with Thomas More holding a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series. The Saints have captured the last five meetings, including a 13-10 overtime win over the Bison at Bison Stadium last year.
Last Time Out
In a game that saw 35 fourth-quarter points, the Bison were defeated, 30-28, by Thiel College on November 2.
Bethany took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but were outscored 20-15 in the final frame, which included three rushing touchdowns by the Tomcats. Thiel scored the first two touchdowns on back-to-back drives, culminating on scoring runs from Ryan Radke, to go up 24-10.
Bethany would immediately respond, taking just 46 seconds to drive 55 yards, culminating on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) to Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) to cut the lead to 24-19.
On the next play from scrimmage, the Tomcats scored again, this time on a 45-yard run by Josh Wannamaker. A blocked extra point that was returned by the Bison’s Wyssmy Despagne (Riverdale, Md./Parkdale) gave Bethany the defensive PAT and the score stood at 30-21.
With just 51 seconds remaining, the Bison were able to notch another score, this one taking just 29 seconds off the play clock. Grimard finished off the drive with a 26-yard TD to Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henry E. Lackey) which cut the score to 30-28. However, Bethany was unable to recover the onside kick and Thiel went on for the two-point victory.
In the game, the Tomcats were able to control the line of scrimmage, racking up 312 yards on the day, including 235 yards by Wannamaker.
On the other side of the ball, the Bison had a hard time getting anything going, especially in the first half, as they were forced to punt eight times, going 6-of-19 on third down conversions, and just 1-of-4 on fourth downs.
“Our offense, once again, did not help our defense out,” said first year head coach Bill Garvey. “We put ourselves into too many third-and-long situations, while never forcing Thiel to get away from their game plan. We couldn’t control the field offensively, which allowed them to be able to do that.”
In the game, Grimard threw for 302 yards and had a hand in all four of the Bison’s touchdowns (three passing and one rushing). Jennings finished with two scores for the second time this season, and Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) was up to his old tricks, making 12 catches for 140 yards.
In the Saints’ previous contest, TMC defeated Saint Vincent, 31-0. All of Thomas More’s 31 points were scored in the first half of play.
In the game, Thomas More’s Ryan Winkler notched two receiving touchdowns while quarterback Jensen Gebhardt finished with 178 yards passing and three touchdowns. Running back Domonique Hayden eclipsed the 100-yard mark, finishing with 123 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
The defense of Thomas More dominated the Bearcats, limiting Saint Vincent to 71 yards rushing and just 78 yards passing for a total of 149 yards on the day.
Tale of the Tape
The Bison come into the contest with Thomas More scoring 26 points per game while averaging 420 yards of total offense, which ranks fourth in the PAC. The passing offense is the best in the conference, averaging 318.5 yards per game through eight contests.
Grimard continues to impress in his senior campaign as he leads the conference in passing yards per game (318.5), but also leads all players in any position in total offense per contest, averaging 351.0 yards per game.
His top target in the passing game, Blinn is also having a stellar season. He currently ranks first in the PAC in receptions (74), total yards (979) and is one of just three receivers in the PAC to be averaging over 100 yards per game, leading the conference with 122.0. Last week, Blinn’s 12 catches gave him 74 on the year, which breaks the Bethany single-season mark of 72, set by Jonathan Foster during the 2012 campaign.
On the defensive side, Bethany currently ranks sixth in scoring defense, allowing 28.4 points per game. They also allow 423.4 yards per game on the defensive side, which ranks eighth in the PAC. The Bison allow 188.2 yards per game on the ground and 235.1 yards per game through the air.
Individually, Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) leads all Bison with 67 total tackles, ranking him eighth in the conference. Freshman Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) has been a disruptive force in opposing backfields, ranking fourth in the PAC in both tackles for loss (12.0) and sacks (7.0).
On the opposing sideline, the Saints come into the contest ranking first in the PAC in scoring offense (37.4 points per game) and total yards per game (466.2). Ranking sixth in passing yards per game (209.8), the Saints do most of their damage on the ground, where they rack up 256.5 yards per contest.
The biggest reason for the offensive surge in the run game is Hayden, who ranks first in the PAC and second in all of Division III in rushing yards, having racked up 1,649 yards to this point on the season. Hayden is currently averaging 206.1 yards per game and currently boasts an 8.4 yard per carry average.
“Hayden is a matchup problem for a lot of teams,” remarked Garvey of the junior tailback. “He is a great physical runner who also has the ability to make plays in space and run away from people. A big key for us will be to contain him this week.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints have proved that they are a well-rounded ground, allowing just 12.6 points per game so far this season. Thomas More also leads the conference in opponents’ yards per game, allowing just 259.6 total yards.
“This team is more physical on both sides of the ball than any team that we have faced this season,” state Garvey. “They continue to reload on the defensive side and just have a pure physicality to them that is hard to contend with, but we feel that we are up for the challenge.”
Keys to the Game
Control the Ground
When asked what Coach Garvey thought the biggest key for the Bison defense was this week, his response was that it was to stop Domonique Hayden.
“We can’t just let him go out there and break tackles and run all over the place,” said Coach Garvey. “We have to make sure that we stay in our lanes and stay disciplined. He will break a few tackles over the course of the game because that is what good tailbacks do. We just have to be prepared for when he gets the ball and swarm him when he does.”
This season, Hayden has not been held under 100 yards once over the first eight games. He has even eclipsed the 200-yard plateau four times, including a 327-yard, four touchdown performance against Grove City two weeks ago.
“It’s all about being physical and sticking to our assignments,” commented Garvey. “Which ever team can out physical the other, will have a really good chance of winning this football game.”
For the offense, Coach Garvey believes that putting themselves in manageable situations will give the Bison the best chance for success.
Last week, Bethany was forced into five, three-and-outs on the offensive side of the ball, and the biggest reason was that the team put themselves into third-and-long on most of those occasions.
“We really need to go out there and be efficient on the offensive side,” said Garvey. “Last week, we did not make enough plays on first and second downs to give ourselves manageable situations on third down. Any time you leave yourself needing a lot of yards on third down, it doesn’t allow you to keep the defense honest; they can sell out to stop the pass.
“In order for us to be successful this week, it is vital for us to get better production on first down and second down to keep us from having those third-and-long situations, and to keep our offense on the field.”