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BISON TRAVEL TO WESTMINSTER LOOKING FOR SECOND STRAIGHT PAC WIN
Oct. 7 - BETHANY, W.Va. – With a victory Saturday at Westminster, the Bethany College football team would not only even their overall record to 3-3, but also improve to 2-1 in the PAC, which would be the first time they have been over .500 in the conference since 2001. Homecoming kickoff in New Wilmington is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Bison picked up their first PAC victory last Saturday by hanging on for a 24-17 win over Waynesburg. Junior RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) scored a pair of TDs in the first quarter to stake Bethany to a 14-0 lead. After Waynesburg battled back to tie the score at 17-17 early in the fourth, freshman QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) led a 60-yard drive that was capped off by his five-yard scoring run for the go-ahead points. The BC defense stopped the Jackets on their final possession and the Green and White ran out the clock, as they handed Waynesburg its first PAC defeat of the year.
Head coach Tim Weaver said the win was a big one on so many levels, but especially coming on the heels of the disappointing loss to Geneva the week before on the final play of the game.
“The biggest thing about last week’s win was we beat a good team without gimmicks or needing five turnovers or something odd to happen,” said Weaver. “Nobody had any excuses at the end of that one. We went toe-to-toe with a good team, faced some adversity early in the fourth quarter, but overcame it and made big plays on both sides of the ball down the stretch. To bounce back from the toughest loss we’ve had since we’ve been here the week before and play the way we did says a lot about the players with this program.”
Another exciting development in the Waynesburg win was how Grimard threw the football. He had established himself as a very good runner in the opening four weeks, compiling three straight 100-yard effort coming into last Saturday and adding another 83 yards on the ground in the victory. But after completing just 46.8 percent of his passes through the opening month of the season, Grimard, this week’s PAC Offensive Player of the Week, completed 17-of-22 through the air for a career-high 173 yards. While Weaver says he still has a long way to go, the Waynesburg win was a big step in the right direction.
“As Matt continues to develop, we will figure out the throws he’s comfortable making,” said Weaver. “There are a lot of things he has to work on, as most freshmen do, such as footwork and delivery. But we can’t grind to a halt midway through the year to make those adjustments. Bill (Garvey, offensive coordinator) has done a nice job working with him and putting him in situations he can be successful and become more confident. We saw a couple cases of that Saturday when he made a couple really nice throws downfield on double cuts and just missed a third that wasn’t his fault, so he is making good progress.”
The Bethany defense continues to turn heads this season after playing a huge part in the win Saturday. They held Waynesburg to 273 total yards and allowed them to convert just 2-of-11 third down opportunities. After allowing teams to convert third downs at a 46 percent clip last season, Bethany has improved significantly in 2010, as they have dropped that conversion rate to just 33.9 percent. The program’s patience with their game plan, as well as with a young front seven, explains the huge differences this year, according to Weaver.
“You win games defensively by stopping the run, getting teams off the field on third down and limiting teams in the red zone,” said Weaver. “A lot of credit goes to Ryan (Lieb, Bethany’s defensive coordinator) for sticking to what he’s been doing. And we also had to show patience with a young front seven. We knew we were going to take some lumps and we did, but we also knew we were talented and would develop and get better. We aren’t going to be very complicated schematically because of how young we are in the secondary, but we have guys like Kasib (Taalib-Din), John (Gyure) and Robert (Baker) who allow us to rush the passer with only four guys and drop everyone else, so that gives us a chance on third down.”
Last week’s win was a complete one with good contributions from every phase. On special teams, freshman kicker Robert Headden (Union Beach, N.J./Keyport) hit all three extra points and a 20-yard field goal, the Bison’s first field goal since the 2008 season finale. In addition, there were a couple big kick returns by junior Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.) and sophomore Marcus D’Aguiar-Alexander (Waldorf, Md./Frederick Douglas) that set up scoring drives, solid situational punts that pinned Waynesburg deep in their own territory and good coverage on the return game.
“Our special teams play is a big point of emphasis and was very good Saturday,” said Weaver. “Alex and Marcus had two big returns that led directly to touchdowns, we had two punts downed inside the Waynesburg 20 and for the year, the average starting position on a kickoff is the 36, which is huge difference from last year.”
Westminster (1-3, 0-2) comes into Saturday carrying a three-game losing streak, with their only win of the year coming in a 23-6 victory at Hiram in the season opener. Since then, the Titans have lost at Lycoming 40-10, at home against Grove City 31-16 and at Washington & Jefferson last week by a 49-7 score. Westminster tied W&J at 7-7 on a five-yard scoring pass from QB Shawn Lehocky to WR Geno Pasquinelli on the team’s second possession, but the Presidents scored 42 unanswered points to claim the win. Lehocky threw for 134 yards, but was sacked five times and picked off twice, while the defense was paced by LB Tom Geraghty’s 10 tackles.
Bethany’s special teams will have to be on their toes this week against a Westminster team that is leading the PAC in kickoff returns with an average of 23.9. Sophomore Kyle Allen is the man most responsible for that average, as he is 14th in the country by averaging 29.3 yards on his runbacks. The second-year cornerback is a playmaker, as he returned a kick 90 yards for a score against Grove City and also has a 33-yard interception return for a TD this season at Hiram.
Aside from Allen, the Titan defense is led by a trio of senior linebackers who are ranked in the top five in the PAC in tackles per game, including Geraghty (first at 11.5), Cory Meeker (third at 10.2) and Jake Brown (fifth at 9.0). That experience is what makes Weaver a little uneasy about this week’s match-up.
“It seems like we’ve been playing against the same guys on their defense for 25 years,” said Weaver. “Their linebackers lead an experienced, solid group and we’ll have to execute well to move the ball offensively.”
On offense, Westminster has four seniors and one junior on the offensive line, but the skills positions are young. Lehocky, a junior who made his first career start in last year’s 31-28 victory at Bethany, has thrown for 604 yards and three scores this season. Sophomore RB John Proano is the leading rusher with 201 yards in three games after missing the Grove City game due to injury and the top four in receptions on the Titans are a pair of freshmen and two sophomores, including Connor Kobis, who has a team-high 15 catches for 116 yards.
“Lehocky is as dangerous as we’ve faced at quarterback,” said Weaver. “He runs well, has a strong arm and makes good decisions. They also have a very big, physical and experienced offensive line that he can operate behind, so they can present some challenges for us.”
Westminster owns a large advantage in the all-time series between the schools (35-10-2), but the games have been much closer lately. Bethany’s last win was a 41-21 decision in 2007, but the Titans have won the last two meetings 46-43 in 2008 and another three-point victory last year. Weaver says even though Westminster is on a losing skid entering this week’s contest, the Titans always seem to play well against his Bison and it will take a very good effort for Bethany to come away with their first win on Westminster soil since 1940.
“They have played very well against us the last two years and beat us in close games,” said Weaver. “They were coming in off a tough loss two years ago and only had two wins when we played them last year. We know we are going to get their best effort on Homecoming and it will be very difficult for us to go in there and get a win.”