Nov. 12 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany College football team will look to close out the regular season with a three-game winning streak as they travel to Latrobe, Pa. on Saturday to take on the Bearcats of Saint Vincent College. A win for the Green & White would move Bethany back to the .500 mark, making the Bison ECAC Bowl eligible for the second year in a row. Full game notes can be viewed below.
The Bison: Bethany enters the last weekend of the regular season having won back-to-back games over Geneva College (41-15) and Grove City College (58-26. The Green & White used the Bison Stadium atmosphere to their advantage in their victory over the Wolverines, pushing their record to 4-5 on the year.
After Grove City put points on the board, the Bison quickly responded. They needed just three plays to find the end zone, including a 44-yard pass from Lincon Reyes to senior Eric Blinn to set up the Green & White with a first-and-goal. One play later, Reyes found Terry Linyard on a five-yard slant to give Bethany a 7-6 lead.
From there, the two teams would trade four touchdowns. Reyes would connect on two more touchdown passes to two different receivers. The first pass was a 12-yard strike to Blinn, with the second coming on a 31-yard connection to Tyler Ambush. The Ambush touchdown helped the Bison retake a 21-19 lead, a lead which they would not relinquish.
Committing to the run game, the Green & White outscored the Wolverines 37-7 in the second and third quarters.
Junior Jalen Holmes went on to have a record day, racking up a career-high 341 yards rushing on 26 carries while scoring a career-best four touchdowns. In the span of the contest, Holmes shattered four records, including the Presidents’ Athletic Conference single-game rushing yardage record.
Holmes scored four times in the middle two stanzas, which included runs of 15, 55, 51 and 49 yards, respectively. His final two touchdowns in the third quarter, gave him each of the four records that he now boasts.
Offensively, the Bison dominated the point of attack as the offensive line helped the Green & White total 447 total rushing yards. Along with Holmes’ 341 yards, freshman Joseph Fiasco finished with 45 yards on 10 carries, while freshman Antonio Hannah added 44 yards on nine touches.
Blinn posted 11 catches for 137 yards and a score, become the first active player in Division III to reach 4,000 career-receiving yards. He also became the single-season record holder for receiving touchdowns, catching his 11th TD of the season (record surpasses Ed Holmes’ 2012 record of 10).
The Bearcats: Saint Vincent enters the game having ended a three-game losing streak with a 34-27 win over Geneva College last week.
Saint Vincent controlled the game in the first quarter, scoring twice on a pair of Tyler Donahue 23-yard runs. The second capped a two-play, 60 yard drive that gave the Bearcats a 14-0 lead.
The Bearcats would score a late, first-half touchdown after Geneva had pulled within one point, taking a seven-point lead into the break. The two teams then traded 28 points in the second half.
With the game knotted at 27-27, Saint Vincent used a four-play, 56-yard drive, capped by a 20-yard Shavonta Craft touchdown run to seal a 34-27 victory. In the win, the Bearcats dominated the ground game, totaling 244 yards rushing while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
The Series: The Bison and Bearcats will meet for just the ninth-time with the Green & White holding a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams have split their last four meetings, with Saint Vincent claiming victory in 2014.
When Last They Met: A third-quarter, ten-yard touchdown by Craft proved to be the difference between the Bison and Bearcats in the teams’ last meeting as Saint Vincent grabbed the 41-35 win.
The team’s played as equal as any game can be as each side racked up 420 yards of offense. Saint Vincent did their damage through the air, posting 304 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Bison responded with a heavy ground attack, totaling 336 yards rushing against the Saint Vincent defensive front.
Both backs Brandon Hill and Jalen Holmes found the end zone in the first quarter as the Bison held a 14-7 advantage heading into quarter number two. Saint Vincent then responded with 13 unanswered points in the middle two frames before the flood gates opened in the final stanza.
The teams combined for 42 points in the fourth quarter, with the Bison scoring three times on the ground, and the Bearcats, three times through the air.
Individually, Holmes led the way for the Bison, totaling 131 yards on just 16 carries while posting two scores. Hill added 122 yards and two touchdowns. On the flip side, Saint Vincent was led by a 304-yard, four-touchdown outing from quarterback Matt Deakins.
The Coaches: Bison head coach Bill Garvey and Saint Vincent coach Dr. Ron Dolciato meet for just the second time in either’s brief tenure at their respective institutions.
Garvey led the Bison to their first winning season since 2001 and first post-season appearance since 1980 when he coached the Green & White to a 6-5 record in just his second season. That season, the Bison earned an appearance in the ECAC Southeast Bowl Championship against Stevenson University. Garvey currently possess a 14-15 regular season record, and is 14-16 overall in his third season as head coach.
Dolciato took over the reigns of the Saint Vincent football team last season, becoming the eighth head coach in program history before the 2014 campaign. Last season, he led the Bearcats to a 4-6 record and has them looking to reach the .500 mark for the first time since 2011.
Return of the Back: 2015 has seen a breakout performance from junior running back Jalen Holmes, who was already having a career year before his record-breaking outing against Grove City in week nine.
Through his last four games, Holmes has been torching defenses to the tune of 800 total yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 200 yards and two scores per contest. He ran for a PAC single-game record 341 yards against the Wolverines, toting the ball 26 times (13.1 yards per carry) while scoring four times on the ground.
Thanks to those numbers, Holmes shattered the Bethany’s single-season rushing record (1,269) and touchdown record (14). He has eclipsed 100 rushing yards six times on the year and has scored in each of his last eight outings.
This week, Holmes takes on a Saint Vincent squad that ranks seventh in the PAC in rushing defense, allowing 172.3 yards per game on the ground. In the two team’s previous meeting, Holmes ran wild on the Bearcats, posting 133 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
Keep the Offense Rolling: Along with Holmes, the entire Bethany offense has been on a tare over the last month of the regular season. In the team’s last four games, the Green & White have averaged 514.7 yards and 44 points per game. Bethany has not scored less than 35 points since week five, posting 40 points or more in four games this season.
Currently, the Bison rank fifth in the conference in scoring (33.1) and total offense (425.3). They rank fourth in the PAC in passing (235.0) while sitting fifth in rushing offense (190.3).
Individually, Holmes ranks second in the PAC in rushing yards per game (141.0) while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Senior wideout Eric Blinn is also one of the league’s top performers, ranking second in the league in both receiving yards (112.0) and touchdowns (11).
This week, the Bison will look to keep the good times rolling as they go up against a Bearcat defense that ranks seventh in the conference in total defense (417.8). Saint Vincent is allowing 31.9 points per game over the course of the season.
Disruptive Force: On the defensive side of the ball, the Bison have channeled some of their 2014 success, ranking second in the conference in sacks (31.0). Bethany has totaled 13.0 sacks in their last four games, including a season-best eight in a win over Geneva in week 8. They will once again look to their disruptive capabilities in week 10, as the Bearcats enter the contest ranking eighth in the PAC in sacks allowed (29).
Turnover Battle: One of the biggest keys for the Bison on Saturday will be how well they do in the turnover margin against the Bearcats. Saint Vincent enters the game ranked fourth in the PAC (+5), while the Bison sit tenth at -11.
Bowl Eligible?: A win by the Bison would make the Green & White eligible for an ECAC Bowl bid, marking the second-straight year in which they would qualify. A win would also give Bethany back-to-back .500+ seasons for the first time since 2010 & 2011.