Oct. 28 – BETHANY, W. Va. - The Bethany College football team will look to close out the home portion of their regular season with a win as they host Grove City College for Senior Day at Bison Stadium. The Bison enter the game with a 3-5 record, 2-4 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference while the Wolverines are still searching for their first win of the year at 0-7, 0-5 in the PAC. Full game notes can be viewed below.
The Bison: Bethany comes into the game with Grove City having won their previous contest, a 41-15 drubbing of Geneva College. In the game, the Bison defense got back to their old ways, holding the Golden Tornado offense to just 13 points and posting season highs in both sacks (8.0) and tackles for loss (13.5).
The Green & White rattled off the first 21 points of the game, scoring on two of their first three drives to open the contest. Junior running back Jalen Holmes tallied the game’s first score, rushing in from three-yards out to cap off a nine-play drive.
The next tally for the Bison was scored at a more rapid pace, as Bethany needed just three plays for senior QB Lincon Reyes to find senior wideout Eric Blinn on a 48-yard touchdown pass. Blinn also scored the next touchdown of the game, returning a punt 85 yards for the special teams score. When the dust settled, the Bison held a 21-point advantage.
In the second half, the Green & White would add three more touchdowns, including a 19-yard run by Holmes, a 14-yard pass from Reyes to Tyler Ambush, and a defensive score on a fumble return by senior Larry Kpadehyea.
The defense, after allowing Geneva to score 13 points in the final four minutes of the opening half, shut the Golden Tornado offense down in the second stanza, holding them scoreless. The only points scored by the visitors came on a blocked extra point, which was returned for two points.
In the win, the Bison put everything together, getting solid contributions from multiple facets. The Bethany defense posted season highs in both sacks (8.0) and tackles for loss (13.5) in the victory. Nadim Raddar, Daniel Gibson and Donavan Hayden anchored the “D” in the matchup.
Raddar posted a career best 5.0 tackles for loss while adding 3.5 sacks. He finished the day with a season high 12 tackles, making six assisted and six solo tackles. Gibson also tallied a career high, finishing the contest with nine stops. He also added 2.0 sacks and forced the fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
For Hayden, the senior linebacker led the team in total tackles, finishing the day with 15 while also adding 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. His totals marked the fifth time this season that he has notched at least 10 tackles, putting him at a team-best 84 on the season.
Offensively, Holmes and Blinn led the way, each scoring two touchdowns. Holmes finished the game with 135 yards on just 18 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per tote while scoring twice. Blinn total 117 yards on seven catches while adding a touchdown. He also posted a special teams score, totaling 215 all-purpose yards.
The Wolverines: Grove City enters Bison Stadium having dropped 17-consectuive games, including a 66-14 decision to #11 Thomas More College last Saturday. Grove City tallied a pair of second-quarter touchdowns in the game, but was outgained by the Saints by a total of 687-233.
Quarterback Caleb Jakiel totaled a pair of touchdown passes in the loss, finishing the day 8-of-20 for 142 yards. He also added 21 rushing, which lead the team.
Defensively, the Wolverines gave up 348 yards rushing while surrendering 339 yards through the air. The Saints attempted just 20 passes, completing 14 while averaging 24.2 yards per completion. Grove City also surrendered seven rushing touchdowns in the contest.
The Series: Grove City and the Bison meet for the 70th time in the series with the Wolverines holding a 42-25-2 advantage in the all-time record. The two programs have split the last six meetings, which includes back-to-back wins by the Green & White in 2013 (34-31) and 2014 (34-9).
When Last They Met: The Bison secured their first winning season since the 2001 campaign when they defeated Grove City 34-9 to move to 6-3 on the season in 2014.
The Bison started the game off slow, trailing 7-3 at the end of the first half. The lone points from the Green & White came on a 30-yard Chris Ray field goal.
The second half was a different story entirely, as the Bethany defense forced four Grove City turnovers, helping the Bison outscore the Wolverines 31-2 in the second stanza. Senior running back Brandon Hill scored the first two touchdowns of the game for the Bison, rushing for a one-yard score while adding a nine-yard TD reception.
The Bison put the game out of reach in the contest, scoring the final 24 points of the game after Grove City earned two points on a safety. Hill tallied his second TD before Eric Blinn caught a 36-yard touchdown pass. Following Ray’s second field goal of the game, Bethany posted their first defense score of the season on a 10-yard interception return.
Defensively, the Bison controlled the contest, holding Grove City to just 224 total yards of offense. The Green & White kept the Wolverines to a season-best 101 passing yards while forcing four turnovers. Donavan Hayden led the defense with 13 tackles while posting a pair of sacks.
The Coaches: Bethany head coach Bill Garvey and Grove City College head coach Chris Smith meet for the third time in Garvey’s tenure as the Bison’s head coach. Currently, Garvey holds a 2-0 advantage over Smith as they Bison have taken the last two meetings over the Wolverines.
Garvey led the Bison to their first winning season since 2001 and first post-season appearance since 1980 when he led 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 13-15 regular season record, and is 13-16 overall in his third season as head coach.
Smith, the longest tenured head coach in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, is coaching in his final season at Grove City College. Smith, who is in his 32nd season as the head coach of the Wolverines, is the all-time wins leader in Grove City history having amassed 122 career victories.
Return of the Back: Junior running back Jalen Holmes is in the midst of a career season at tail back, currently amassing 928 total yards through eight games. The junior back in the middle of a hot streak, having rattled off three-straight 100+-yard performances, including a 135 yard, two touchdown outing against Geneva last week.
Over his last three games, which includes a career-high 180 yards and a pair of scores against Washington & Jefferson on Oct. 17, Holmes is averaging 153 yards per game while posting five touchdowns. If he continues his torrid pace, Holmes will become the first 1,000-yard back for the Green & White since Will Anderson in 2002.
This week, Holmes, who currently ranks fourth in the conference in rushing yards per game (116.0) while go up against a Grove City defense that sits last in the PAC in run defense, allowing 231.7 yards per contest.
Blinnsanity: Last week against the Golden Tornadoes, senior Eric Blinn racked up 215 all-purpose yards, becoming the first Bison and just the third active player in all of Division III to amass 5,000 for his career. In the 41-15 victory, Blinn tallied 117 yards receiving while adding 93 return yards, including an 85-yard punt return of a touchdown.
Blinn has tallied at least 100-yards receiving in 22 games throughout his career, and currently sits as the active leader in Division III in catches per game (8.33) and total receiving yards (3,966). He has currently amassed 871 receiving yards and will look to become the first Bison in school history to tally three-straight 1,000-yard seasons.
In week nine against the Wolverines, Blinn will once again look to take advantage of a Grove City team that he has had success against in the past. Through three career games, Blinn has averaged 7.6 catches and 132 yards per game. This season, the Wolverines enter the contest allowing 237.6 yards per game through the air.
Defense Wins Games: The old addage seems to ring true for the Bison this season. In the team’s three victories this season, the Green & White have allowed an average of 353 yards and 15 points per game. They have also showed their ability to get into their opponents’ backfields in victories, averaging 11.6 tackles for loss and six sacks.
On the flip side of the coin, the Bison defense has struggled in the team’s five losses, surrendering an average of 53.2 points and 442 yards per game.
Against the Wolverines, the Bison appear to be poised to have a big day on the defensive side of the ball, as Grove City enters the matchup ranked last in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference in total offense (280.3 yards per game) and 10th in scoring offense (15.6).
For the second-consecutive year, the Bison rank first in the PAC in total sacks, having amassed 30 through eight games. They will once again have a chance at living in the opponents’ backfield, as Grove City has allowed 31 on the season.
Senior Day: Before Saturday’s game, a total of 14 seniors will be recognized for appearing in their final home game at Bison Stadium. The group has led the Bison football team to 16 wins at this point in their tenure, including the team’s first winning season since 2001, and first post-season appearance since the 1980 season.