Sept. 20 - NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - For the second consecutive week, the Bethany College football team (2-1, 1-0 PAC) erased a third-quarter deficit to grab a victory, this time over Westminster College by a 21-14 score in overtime on Saturday afternoon.
Unlike one season ago, the matchup between the Bison and Titans saw a flurry of points in the first quarter. Westminster got on the board first, capitalizing on a special teams miscue by Bethany. Due to a botched punt return attempt, Bethany's first turnover of the season set up the Titans on the Bison 18-yard line. Just two plays later, Paul Columbo found the endzone with his feet, giving the Titans a 7-0 lead.
The Bison would quickly respond, however, capturing seven points of their own on the ensuing drive. In the 10-play, 76-yard drive, sophomore quarterback Brian Vales (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth ) found four different receivers, including junior Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) who found the end zone on a 22-yard touchdown reception, tying the game at 7-7.
Westminster would respond to Bethany's score with another one of their own, as Columbo would once again find the end zone. After turning the Bison over on downs on the Westminster 36, the Titans used just six plays to drive the 64 yards for the score. Westminster used five running plays in the drive, including a 28-yard touchdown scamper for Columbo, to take the advantage, 14-7.
The second quarter was all about the defense, as there was a combined eight possessions in the frame, all of which were denied points. On Westminster's final drive of the half, junior Donavan Hayden (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern) picked off a pass, marking his first interception and the first pick by the Bison this season. The interception marked the third forced turnover by the opportunistic Hayden this season.
Despite the Bison defense locking down the Titans for the whole second quarter, Bethany found itself heading to the locker room down by a 14-7 score.
The second half was more of the same defensively for the Bison. The big defensive stop for Bethany in the third quarter came on a fourth-and-three from the Bison 30-yard line. Junior Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) came away with a big stop, sacking Columbo for a loss of 13 yards and giving the Bison the ball with momentum. Following the turnover on downs, the Bison needed just five plays to score the equalizer as Vales ran in from a yard out to knot the score at 14-14.
Both defenses would not let up the go-ahead score in regulation, and the game went into overtime still tied at 14. The extra session marked the first OT that the Bison had seen since Nov. 3, 2012 against Thomas More.
The Bison went first in the overtime frame, and needed only four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown. Sophomore Jalen Holmes (New Castle, Pa./New Castle), who scored his first career touchdown last week, found the end zone on a 14-yard run, and Bethany had their first lead of the day.
After picking up a first down, the Titans were pinned back on a 3rd-and-15 due to a fumble, and had two chances to pick up the first down. The Bison defense was able to stand tall, forcing incomplete passes on third and fourth down to walk away with the seven-point victory.
The win gave the Bison their first victory in a conference opener since the 2001 campaign, when the Green & White defeated Waynesburg 35-7. It also marked the first overtime victory for Bethany since a win over Geneva College on October 6, 2012.
Offensively, the Bison were led by Blinn, who was up to his old tricks, catching 11 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. With the catches, Blinn has pulled within nine receptions of the Bethany career record as he has 169 career catches.
Vales finished the contest with a career high 203 yards passing. Vales also scored twice in the game, once through the air and once on the ground. Holmes finished the day with 45 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Defensively, Hayden was a man possessed in the contest, finishing the game with 14 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He also picked off a pass and forced a fumble in the game. Kpadehyea also played well in the contest, finishing the day with 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
The Bison, who are off to their best start since the 2011 campaign, will return home on Saturday, Sept. 27 to take on Waynesburg University. The contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.