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FRESH OFF BYE WEEK, BISON TRAVEL TO GROVE CITY SATURDAY
Nov. 4 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After using their bye week to recharge following a loss to #9 Thomas More Oct. 23, the Bethany College football team returns to the field this Saturday with a road trip to Grove City. The PAC match-up at Robert E. Thorn Field against the Wolverines is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
The last time Bethany (4-4, 3-2) was in action was the home game against Thomas More, who raced to a 27-0 lead. The Bison trimmed it to 27-14 following three-yard TD runs by sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) and freshman QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut), but TMC scored the final 21 points to finish off a 48-14 victory. Grimard set career-highs with 21 completions for 227 passing yards, but Thomas More took two interceptions back for scores and stifled the BC running attack, which gained just 39 yards.
The bye week, which came at an unusual time compared to years past, gave head coach Tim Weaver and his staff a chance to work on developmental things while also maintaining a readiness for the final two games.
“The bye coming after week eight is different for us because the last few years, our week off has been after the third or fourth game,” said Weaver. “I talked to some people to get ideas on how to handle it and they said the main thing was to focus on getting rested. Our practices were shorter and we did one-on-one work early in the week. By the end of practice, we had JV players going in full scrimmage mode. It gave us a chance to work on player development, while also focusing on getting guys rested and staying fresh for the final two weeks.”
When Weaver’s first season at Bethany began in the fall of 2006, the Bison had lost 14 consecutive road games dating back three years. Even in his time since taking over on the BC sidelines, the program won just five road games prior to this year. However, the 2010 season has seen a reversal of fortunes for the Green and White when they venture away from Bison Stadium. Bethany is 3-1 on the road this year and with a win Saturday at Grove City, will clinch their best road record since going a perfect 5-0 on their way to the 1980 PAC Championship.
“The only real difference is our players showing a little more maturity and confidence,” said Weaver. “Counting our win at King’s earlier this year, we’ve only lost one overnight trip since we’ve been here and that was at Thomas More last year. We couldn’t figure out why we struggled in the long day trips for PAC games that had us on the bus for two-plus hours. We haven’t changed anything major. We still eat at the same time, take the same number of people on the bus. The credit just goes to the players for being more mature and focused and having the confidence to beat those teams.”
Bethany will need that confidence for this week’s showdown at Grove City, a place they have lost seven consecutive games and haven’t won since a 13-6 victory in 1995. The Wolverines have dropped four of five since a 2-1 start, including a 21-14 setback at Washington & Jefferson last week. W&J took a 21-0 lead, but two TD runs by RB Blaine Miller made it a one-possession game. Grove City had two possessions to try to net the trying score, but couldn’t get out of their own end of the field and suffered the seven-point loss despite 22 completions and 183 passing yards from QB Brian Pell.
The Wolverines (3-5, 1-4) have been a hard team to figure this season in conference outings, as they suffered lopsided losses at Waynesburg (42-16) and Saint Vincent (42-17), but played close, competitive games with PAC powerhouses Thomas More (31-9 as TMC scored 17 unanswered second half points) and last week at W&J.
“If you look at the Waynesburg game, Grove City was in disarray at the quarterback spot because of injuries and hadn’t decided on a guy,” said Weaver. “And credit should go to Saint Vincent for that one because Grove City would be the first to admit they gave up way too many big plays. The one thing with Grove City is they aren’t built to make comebacks. They play really good defense and execute and drive down the field offensively but they don’t get big chunks of yardage on the ground or on pass plays.”
The GCC quarterback situation has settled down after injuries pressed Pell into action earlier than anticipated. He has thrown for 598 yards and one touchdown so far, while Miller is the top rusher and receiver. He has gained 352 yards on the ground with four scores and hauled in a team-leading 33 passes for 395 yards and four more TDs.
According to Weaver, they have prepared for the same Grove City offense, but their cues will be different because of Pell’s strengths.
“In watching their quarterbacks play over the last several games, they haven’t adjusted offensively, but the quarterbacks have different strengths and look different places first in the passing game,” said Weaver. “They have settled on the freshman Pell, who is very poised and a very good scrambler. He isn’t scrambling to run and instead looking to get out of trouble and throw downfield. We also have to be aware of Miller and (Ed) Reith in the run game, so we can’t drop eight in coverage.
“I’ve always been impressed with what they do offensively and I don’t know how they practice it all,” said Weaver.
The Wolverine defense will be a force to deal with Saturday, as they are third in the league in total yards allowed (311.0) and second against the rush (121.6). Only one team has gained more than 360 yards of offense (Saint Vincent-435). The leading tackler is MLB Jason Ferguson with 55 hits, but Weaver is also impressed with DT Jarred Frawley, who was PAC Defensive Player of the Week after a 13-7 win over Geneva, and DE Marc Shamley, who has eight tackles for loss among his 33 stops.
“Grove City’s defense is no different than it has been and it’s really sound and really well-coached,” said Weaver. “There is nothing on film that makes you say ‘We can get them there.’ Saint Vincent was creative in their passing game and found holes, but Grove City defended Geneva and W&J as well as anyone has and they cover the right guys and fill the right gaps.
“They have a really good defensive tackle in Frawley and (Shamley) is a really good player who is a hybrid end-linebacker,” said Weaver. “With that kind of talent inside and outside, it will make it tough to run the ball. To be ranked third in total defense after playing Geneva, Thomas More and W&J, you know they are playing well. We know we will have to execute very well because we are not going to just line up and smash them.”