Oct. 11 – BETHANY, W. Va. – If the old adage is true, that defense wins championships, then the Bethany College football team (5-1, 4-0 PAC) could have the golden ticket. The Bison celebrated Homecoming in style as the defense held Carneige Mellon to just 198 total yards and Green & White defeated the Tartans, 19-7, for their fifth-straight victory.
After holding Carnegie Mellon to a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Bison got the ball for their first possession and drove it 74 yards on 14 plays. However, Bethany was stymied on the one-yard line as the Tartans forced a fumble which they recovered in the end zone to keep the game tied at 0-0.
The Tartans got on the board first in their first drive of the second quarter as they went 65 yards in six plays. The biggest play of the drive came on a 44-yard pass from Andrew Hearon to Chris Herrera. Five plays later, Herron found the end zone on the ground from six yards out to give CMU the 7-0 lead.
The Bison would get into the Carneige Mellon red zone twice in the second quarter, but were held to field goals on both occasions. The first field goal by freshman Chris Ray (Richmond, Va./Godwin) came after an eight-play 62-yard drive. Ray’s kick was good from 23 yards out and the Bison trailed 7-3 with 7:36 remaining in the half.
On Bethany’s final possession of the half, quarterback Brain Vales (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) found wideout Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) five different times, including a 20-yard completion on third-and-one from the CMU 31. The drive stalled however, and with time running out, Ray connected on a 34-yard field goal to cut the Tartan advantage to 7-6 heading into the halftime break.
Despite outgaining Carnegie Mellon 269-105 in the first half, the Bison trailed at the break for the fourth time this season. Bethany, however, would have an answer in the third quarter.
After both teams posted three-and-outs in their opening possessions of the second half, Bethany would notch the go-ahead score. Picking up most of their yards on the ground, including a 19-yard run by Jalen Holmes (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) which set Bethany up in Carnegie Mellon territory, the Green & White took their first lead of the contest on a two-yard shovel pass from senior Nick Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) to Blinn. The touchdown throw was the first of Greer’s career, and marks the second time this season that a Bison defender has had a hand in an offensive score (defensive lineman Brandon Barnes (Midland, Pa./Western Beaver) notched a rushing touchdown two weeks ago against Waynesburg). The score gave the Bison a 13-7 lead which they would not relinquish.
The Carneige Mellon offense would run just six plays in their next two possessions, giving the ball back to the Bison on the Tartan 45-yard line with 3:14 to play in third frame. The Green & White needed just six plays to find pay dirt. Holmes once again provided the spark, rattling off a 27-yard run to put the Bison inside the Tartan red zone. Two plays later, Blinn caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Vales, his second TD reception of the contest, to extend the lead to 19-7.
The Bison defense was unstoppable in the third quarter, allowing Carnegie Mellon to gain just six total yards of offense in the frame, including -11 yards on the ground. The Tartans had three three-and-outs in the quarter as the Bison controlled the ball possession battle, holding the pigskin for 11:12 of the 15-minute frame.
The fourth quarter was also dominated by the Bethany defense as they allowed just 43 total yards until the second-to-last play of the game when the Tartans rattled off a 44-yard run by Sam Benger. The Bison, however, would end the game on a sack by MacHale Harville (Arcadia, Fla./De Soto County), which gave the Green & White defense their seventh sack of the game, a season-high for the Bethany “D”. Holding Carnegie Mellon scoreless in the final frame, the Bison would go on to win the game by a 19-7 score.
The victory gave Bethany its’ fifth-straight victory, the longest by the Bison since the 2001 team won five straight to start the season. Head Coach Bill Garvey is now 9-7 in his tenure as Bethany’s head coach, which ties him for the best start by any coach in the history of the program through 16 games.
It was a game of season bests for the Bison defense. The Green & White allowed just 198 yards of total offense in the win, holding Carnegie Mellon to 48 yards rushing. Outside of two, 44-yard plays during the game, the Tartans managed just 110 yards over their other 56 plays during the game.
In the contest, the Bethany defense remained an ever-present force in the opponents’ backfield as they totaled seven sacks and nine tackles for loss. They have now totaled 59 tackles for loss and 27 sacks in their first six games of the season. Juniors Eric Campbell (Hurricane, W. Va./Hurricane) and Nadim Raddar (Laurel, Md./Old Mill) led the way for Bethany. Campbell finished the game with a team-high seven tackles, including two sacks and two tackles for loss. Raddar notched three sacks and three tackles for loss in the win. Those totals improved his numbers to 16 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks on the season, both which lead the country.
In the win, the Bison also totaled a season-high two interceptions. Defensive backs Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) and Aaron Frye (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) each picked off a pass in the second half to help seal the victory for Bethany.
The game wasn’t all about the defense, however, as the Bison offense also saw two season-high performances. The running game was in full force in the contest as the Green & White controlled the line of scrimmage, totaling 301 rushing yards in the win. The rushing total marked the most by a Bethany team since a September 11, 2010 victory over King’s College when Bethany totaled 387 yards on the ground.
Individually, Holmes had a career day in the absence of injured starter Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward). Holmes shouldered the load for Bethany, finishing the game with 26 carries for 160 yards. In the contest, he lost just nine yards on the day, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
Blinn also had a monster day, catching 15 passes for the second game in a row. The junior receiver finished the game with 15 snags for 137 yards and two scores. Those numbers marked Blinn’s fourth straight game with at least 130 yards, 10 catches and a touchdown. His two touchdown receptions were also a season high. Blinn now has 66 catches on the year for 673 yards and six scores.
Before the contest, Bethany also welcomed five new members to its Hall of Fame. Kathleen (McGowan) Wack, Jill (Kamerer Smith), Jodi Jackfert, Michael Mezerski and Nevada Smith were all inducted. During halftime the Bethany College Homecoming King and Queen were also named.
The Bison will be back in action at Bison Stadium on Saturday, October 18, when they take on Washington & Jefferson College. The showdown with the Presidents is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.