Oct. 2 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany football program (1-3; 1-1 PAC) will look to capture that winning feeling for the second straight week as they host the Presidents of Washington & Jefferson College (3-1, 2-0 PAC) on Saturday. The game is scheduled to be played under the lights at Bison Stadium at 7 p.m.
Last Time Out
Last week the Bison picked up their first victory of the season, jumping out to a 21-3 halftime advantage and holding on for a 34-31 victory over Grove City.
With the Bison up 10-points in the waning minutes of the game, Grove City put on the pressure, scoring a touchdown with just 1:22 to play, to cut the score to 34-31. The Wolverines then attempted an onside kick that succeeded, and Grove City got the ball back for one final drive.
It was in that final drive, however, that the defense stepped up big. With the visitors driving down the field once again, the Bison coaching staff decided to bring some pressure instead of play prevent coverage as they had on the previous drive.
That pressure, applied by Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg), forced the Grove City quarterback to throw too quickly and the pass was fought for, and intercepted by, freshman Channan Scott (Willow Grove, Pa./Abington), who came down with the ball to give Bethany position, and the win, 34-31.
“It was a great call by (defensive coordinator Jacoby) Watkins,” remarked head coach Bill Garvey. “We had played prevent the whole drive previously and they just picked us apart because we gave them too much time.
“After they executed a perfect on-side kick, Watkins told me that we have to bring pressure, so we did, and the players came up huge for us.”
In the contest, Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) had arguably his most efficient day of the year passing the ball as he completed 26-of-32 for 323 and two touchdown passes. He also ran for two scores. Sophomore Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) was at it again, making 10 catches, eight in the second half alone, for 163 yards. Senior Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) also stepped up big, making both touchdown catches in the game.
The Bison defense also showed signs of massive improvement according to Coach Garvey.
“I thought the defense did an excellent job, especially in the first half and third quarter. Our offense sort of let us down after making some nice stops in that third frame, but our defense held a very solid offense to just three points in the first half, and that’s good by anyone’s standards.”
Washington & Jefferson
This week the Bison tangle with the Presidents of Washington & Jefferson who are coming into the game as winners of back-to-back games. The Presidents also made the most of their Homecoming weekend as they took care of Thiel College by a score of 32-19.
In that contest, Dion Wiegand led the way for W&J, posting 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Also, without quarterback Matt Bliss in the game, backup Pete Coughlin threw for 169 yards and a touchdown on 16 completions, and also ran for another score.
W&J never trailed in the game, despite being outgained 409-321 in total yards and losing the time of possession battle by almost a full 12 minutes (35:52-24:08).
Tale of the tape
The Presidents come into the game as one of the top rated offenses in the conference, scoring almost 38 points per game. The team is led by a solid run game that gains 203.5 yards on the ground per contest.
Individually, W&J’s Dion Wiegand ranks second in the conference in rushing yards per contest (114.5), and has already scored 10 rushing touchdowns this season.
“Just like Grove City who we played last week, it’s no secret that they like to run the ball,” said Coach Garvey. “They have a very talent and tough group of offensive linemen, and Wiegand is a very good ball player.
“We just have to make sure that we stay in our lanes and minimize the damage that he can do, as we continue to improve in our run stopping ability.”
Defensively, the Presidents have had some problems this season, allowing 298.5 yards per game through the air (last in the conference) and another 171.8 per game on the ground, as they rank eighth in total defense (470.2 ypg).
Offensively, Bethany currently ranks fifth in the conference in points scored (30.8) and is fourth in total offense. However, the Bison also currently rank as the PAC’s top rated passing offense, collecting 336.8 yards per game through the air.
Defensively, The Bison rank ninth in the PAC, giving up almost 500 total yards per game, which includes 200.5 yards per game on the ground.
Keys to the Game
Air it out
As the passing game goes, so does the Bison offense. Bethany, currently the best passing offense in the PAC, has a quarterback in Grimard who ranks first in all of Division III in total passing yards this season as he has thrown for 1,347 yards through just the first four weeks of the year.
Eric Blinn has caught a majority of his passes (46), but Grimard spreads the ball around nicely as four different receivers have eclipsed 100+ yards receiving, and seven different receivers have mad a catch so far this season. Chris Collins has currently caught 19 passes for 238 yards and three scores, while sophomore Jaylen Jennings has also caught three touchdown passes and has 251 yards receiving.
This week the Bison have the opportunity to take advantage of a W&J secondary that ranks dead last in the conference in passing yardage allowed, and just gave up 269 total yards through the air to Thiel College, who ranks eighth in the PAC in passing offense.
“Grimard is a special talent out there,” remarked Coach Garvey of his senior signal caller. “W&J brings a lot of looks and will try to confuse the offense, but the great-thing about having a four-year starter under center is that he understands all of what defenses are trying to do and makes the proper reads almost every time.”
Battle In the Trenches
After allowing teams to rush over 250 yards per game against them over the first three weeks, the Bison defense stepped up and held Grove City to just 146 last week.
“I think it was a big testament to how hard these guys have worked over the last few weeks,” said Coach Garvey. “The mental toughness of each one of the guys on the defensive side of the ball really showed because we really challenged them to step up to the task, and they did.”
This week, the Bison face another tough task on the ground as the Presidents come into the game as the second best rushing team in the conference, behind only Thomas More.
“If we can step up and fill our gaps like we did last week, we have a very good chance at once again controlling the line of scrimmage, which will also help us control the pace of the game.”
Blinn vs. Baroffio
Even though they will never be on the field at the same time, two of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference’s top playmakers will square off on Saturday evening. Bethany’s Blinn and W&J’s Alex Baroffio rank in the top five in the country in All-Purpose yards per game.
Both players impact their teams both on the offensive side of the ball, and in the special teams’ game. They have even been known to make a play on defense this year.
Blinn comes into the game ranked third in the country in all-purpose yards per game (221.5). He has made 46 receptions for 613 yards this season (both which lead all of Division III) and has added 247 kick return yards, and 26 punt return yards.
Baroffio comes into the game having caught 36 passes for 385 yards and three scores. He has also added 325 kick return yards, 95 yards returning punts and 53 yards rushing.
“Both of these guys that fans will see on Saturday are tremendous playmakers,” remarked Coach Garvey. “It is exciting anytime you get guys like this that get to square off. This weekend, we could possibly be seeing the two best in the conference, and I think the player that has the bigger game will give his team the upper hand.”