BETHANY, W.Va. – Following a disappointing loss in the opener last week, the Bethany College football team will try to rebound in their first home game of the season when they host Kentucky Christian University Saturday. Kickoff at Bison Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Bethany’s first game at Otterbein (Ohio) College last week was marred by five turnovers, including three inside the Cardinals’ 35 and two others that led directly to scores in a 40-7 loss. Despite the amount of miscues, those weren’t the only things that third-year head coach Tim Weaver didn’t like about Saturday’s game.
“Obviously we are disappointed in how we played Saturday,” said Weaver. “We were very disappointed in the play of our quarterbacks, as well as the offensive line and expected a lot more from that group with four starters back. We were without our top two running backs, so we had a freshman playing his first game, as well as inexperienced quarterbacks playing, so if the offensive line doesn’t play well, that compounds the problem. Between the turnovers and missed tackles defensively, those are the issues that beat you in early season games. We as a staff take full responsibility because those are things you can prepare a team against and we didn’t.”
Although no one was happy with the Otterbein game, Weaver said his program moved on quickly and is using it as a learning experience for this week.
“We’ve come to a point as a program that when we watch film, our guys know they made mistakes,” said Weaver. “We just have to work together to learn from it and not make those same mistakes. We lost four in a row in the middle of last year and came back to win the next two, so I’m not worried about this. We’ll bounce back and be ready to go Saturday.”
Despite the five turnovers, Bethany’s offense managed 301 total yards Saturday, including 199 through the air. The main highlight to the BC passing game was junior TE Jorge LaBoy (New York, NY/Central Park East). In his first career start, he set career-highs with seven receptions for 68 yards, which included five catches that resulted in first downs. Weaver said LaBoy, who only played with a club team before coming to Bethany because his high school didn’t have a program, has come a long way in a short period of time.
“Jorge was the bright spot on offense Saturday,” said Weaver. “When he came here, he had never been in the weight room and never been worked with or coached. I haven’t seen a guy like him develop in my career, both as a person and as a player. We’re real proud of him and how hard he’s worked. He’ll be a big part of our offense if we have a guy who can get the ball to the wideouts. Players like (Taylor) McNeil and (Matt) Cruse should draw attention on the outside, which will open things up for Jorge. He got open every time we asked him on Saturday and had a nice game.”
After allowing 13 first quarter points, although one score was set up by a fumble deep in BC territory, the Bethany defense settled down in the second quarter, forcing one punt and two turnovers. Otterbein came out in the second half however and scored on their first four possessions to put the game away. Although missed tackles were an issue, Weaver also said Otterbein’s talent played a role in the second half.
“I think we caught them off-guard with some of the things we did in the first half,” said Weaver. “But give them credit, they’re a good team that I think will win seven or eight games this year. I don’t think they made a lot of adjustments, they just settled down at halftime and executed better in the second half. For us, we need to get off blocks better and do a better job of making plays at the point of attack. We know we have guys who can make plays, but our job as coaches is to help players get in those positions.”
The Bison defense will be challenged again this week to get in the proper spots against a Kentucky Wesleyan team that features a lot of talent at the skill positions. The first-year NAIA program is off to a 0-2 start, but those losses were a 56-12 defeat to a Virginia-Wise program ranked 14th in the nation and a 31-28 setback to Division II Kentucky Wesleyan.
Quarterback Ricky Phillips triggers the KCU offense with a team-leading 124 yards rushing and one touchdown, along with 350 yards through the air and four scores. Last week against Kentucky Wesleyan, Phillips completed 23-of-38 through the air for 278 yards and three TDs while also rushing for 111 yards and another score. Five different receivers have touchdowns, but Ron Blume leads the squad with eight catches for 152 yards and a score.
Defensively, the Knights are giving up over 511 yards per game in total offense. They have been vulnerable against the pass, giving up 368.5 yards and 11 scores through the opening two contests. Linebacker Kevin Mix made 11 tackles in last week’s narrow loss, while DE Clint Thompson recorded eight tackles, including three for loss and forced a fumble.
“They have the most talented group of skill players we’ve seen in three years and it’s not really close,” said Weaver. “This is not the typical start-up program. They are an NAIA school who played a top-15 team the first week and took their lumps. But they learned from it, got better and lost to a Division II program last week by only three points.”
Regardless of whom the Bison opponent is, Weaver says his team has much to improve upon this week if they want to even their record at 1-1.
“We have to establish the running game or we won’t win a game this season,” said Weaver. “When you have a quarterback with no experience, you must be able to run the ball to take some pressure off. Defensively, we have to limit their big plays and keep the ball in front of us. And we need a repeat of our special teams efforts last week. I was very pleased with all our freshmen specialists. We had good returns and made plays overall, so we’ll need to see that again.”