The Bethany College football team will open their 2014 regular season campaign against The University of Mount Union on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m. Full game notes can be found by clicking here.
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The Bison: Bethany comes into the year after a 4-6 season in 2013. The Bison also captured a .500 season in conference play last year, finishing the campaign 4-4. Bethany returns 19 starters to the field from last year's team, including Preseason All-Americans, junior wide receiver Eric Blinn, senior defensive back Wyssmy Despagne, and senior punter Stephen Amic.
The Purple Raiders: The University of Mount Union comes into the contest ranked No. 3 in the country and is riding an 83-game regular season winning streak, dating back to a 21-14 loss at the hands of Ohio Northern University in 2005. Mount Union finished the 2013 season with a 14-1 record and as the runner-up in the National Championship game.
The Series: This week’s contest will mark the ninth meeting all time between the Bison and the Purple Raiders. Mount Union holds a 7-0-1 advantage in eight meetings. The most recent meeting was nearly half a century ago with Mount Union College edging the Bison 35-19 in 1965.
The Last Time They Met: The last time the Bison and Purple Raiders were on the same field:
- A gallon of gas cost just 31 cents.
- The St. Louis Arch was completed.
- The Voting Rights Act was voted into law.
- Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker were both born.
- “Sound of Music” was released.
- The Beatles played their famous concert at Shea Stadium.
- The Green Bay Packers defeated the Cleveland Browns, 23-12 in the NFL Championship Game. It was the first one to be broadcast in color.
The Coaches: Both Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Mount Union’s Vince Kehres became head coaches one season ago following tenures as coordinators at the respective schools.
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.
Kehres enters his second year as head coach of the Purple Raiders after spending 13 years as an assistant under his father, Larry Kehres. Kehres led Mount Union to a 14-1 record in 2013, setting an NCAA record for the most wins by a first-year coach.
All-American Men: When the two teams take the field, the contest will see a total of nine Preseason All-Americans on the gridiron. A total of three Bison and six Purple Raiders were named to the USA College Football Division III Pre-Season All-America Teams. Eric Blinn, Wyssmy Despagne and Stephen Amic earned the distinction for Bethany, while Purple Raiders Kevin Burke, Luke Meacham, Tre’ Jones, Joe Gonell, Alex Kocheff and Tom Lally were all honored.
New Sheriff In Town: When the Bison take the field, they will be led by a new signal caller for the first time in their last 40 games. Starting under center, and getting his first-career start for the Green & White will be sophomore Brian Vales. Vales is replacing four-year starter Matt Grimard who, upon the time of his graduation, was the NCAA Division-III active leader in career yardage (11,560). Vales will become just the third quarterback in four years to start a game for the Bison (Grimard, Dan Pegg).
Returning Arsenal: Helping to break in a new field general, the Bison return nine offensive starters to the field, including three of their top four receivers from a year ago in Blinn, senior Chris Collins and sophomore Tyler Ambush. The Green & White also return their two-headed running attack of seniors Phil Acrie and Brandon Hill as well as four starters to the offensive line (Alex Verikas, James Norkus, Beau Bertus and Terrell Carter).
Blinn There, Done That: Wideout Eric Blinn proved he could be one of the best receivers in the country last season, ranking among the nation’s elite in receptions per game (9.5), receiving yards per game (130.0) and all-purpose yards per contest (185.5). Earning First-Team All-PAC honors a year ago, Blinn is closing in on Bison career records, needing just 33 catches and 536 yards to become the all-time leader in both categories.
Carrying More Responsibility: The Bison backfield could see more touches than they have in years past with the return of Acrie and Hill. Last season the duo combined for 732 yards on just 127 carries, averaging just under 5.6 yards per rush.
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).
Slow Down Burke: The Bison defense will be tasked with slowing down a potent Purple Raider offense, led by senior Kevin Burke. Burke, who was named a D3Football.com First-Team All-American and a Third-Team All-American selection by the Associated Press last year, became the first junior to ever win the Gagliardi Trophy (Division III MVP) after throwing for 3,800 yards and rushing for 1,000 more in 2013.
Super Sophomore: One of the players tasked with slowing down the Mount Union offense is sophomore defensive end Khallid Pierce. Pierce recorded a sack in five different contests, including at least two on two separate occasions. Pierce finished the season fifth in the conference in sacks with seven and also completed 2013 with 12.5 tackles for loss to lead the team.
Strength of Schedule: Of all the teams in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, the Bison will take on the highest ranked opponent when the No. 3 Purple Raiders come to town. No. 22 Thomas More visits No. 5 Wesley and Saint Vincent will also play a top-25 opponent, taking on No. 10 John Carroll in Cleveland. The third-ranked Purple Raiders also represent the highest ranked opponent to visit Bison Stadium since D3football.com started weekly rankings in 2000.
Up Next: Next week the Bison will travel to Thiel College for a non-conference matchup in Greenville, Pa. The game will be played under the lights at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.
Mount Union will be off next week before traveling to Muskingum on September 20.
Catch The Action: Can’t make it to the game? Make sure to check out the live video and audio feeds provided by the Bethany Broadcasting Network (BBN) and the WVBC radio. Both links can be found at: http://portal.stretchinternet.com/bethanywv/