Sept. 28 – BETHANY, W. Va. – On a day when the Bethany campus celebrated Hall of Fame inductions, dedications and homecoming, fans, alumni and currently students alike had something else to celebrate as the Bison football team defeated Grove City College, 34-31.
In a game that saw many ups and downs for both teams, the Bison used 21 first-half points and some timely defense to pull out their first win of the season. Perhaps no play more timely than freshman Channan Scott(Willow Grove, Pa./Abington)’s interception in the waning minutes of the game that killed the Wolverines chance of a potential go-ahead score.
“It’s great to get a win that these guys really deserved,” said first year head coach Bill Garvey, who celebrated his first career victory. “We have been challenging them in big ways over the past week, and they really stepped up to the task today.”
The Bison opened the game with a methodical, eight-play drive that ended in a touchdown. The big play on the was a third-and-eight play in which Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) found Cam Cooper (Hurricane, W. Va./Hurricane) for nine yards to keep the drive alive at the Grove City 20. One play later Grimard hooked up with Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) for a 20-yard touchdown strike to put the Bison ahead, 7-0.
Grove City would respond on the very next drive, eating away most of the first quarter clock on a 14-play drive that lasted 8:42. The Wolverines were able to get down into Bison territory, however with a third-and-four from the Bethany 11, Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) came up with a big sack, to force a fourth down field goal attempt. Grove City nailed the 27-yard try and cut the lead to 7-3.
On the Bison’s next possession, Bethany did something it doesn’t normally do. The Bison picked up most of their yardage on the drive on the ground, gashing the Wolverine defense for three run plays of 10+ yards, including a 12-yard rush by Phil Acrie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley) that got the Bison down to the one yard line. One play later, it was six more points, as Grimard took the ball into the endzone on the ground to give Bethany the 14-3 lead.
“We preach week in and week out about being efficient with our run game,” remarked coach Garvey. “I don’t think we will ever light up the record books with the run, but if they can run effectively like they did in the first half, we have a great chance at winning a lot more games.”
The defense also stepped up in the first half, making big plays and keeping the Grove City offense, who came into the game averaging 29.4 points per game, off the scoreboard.
After the Bison turned the ball over to the Wolverines, the defense stepped up big coming away with a fumble recovery. After Wolverine quarterback Brian Pell put the ball on the turf, the opportunistic Bison jumped on the ball, with Nick Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) getting credit for the recovery which set the Bison up on the Grove City 20. One play later, Grimard found Collins for their second touchdown of the day, a 20-yard strike to the back of the endzone to put the Green and White up, 21-3.
The teams would go into the half with the Bison leading by the same score.
In the third quarter of play, just one touchdown was scored. Pell was able to run in for a Wolverine touchdown from one-yard out with just 4:28 remaining in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-10.
If the third quarter lacked action, than the fourth quarter may have been one of the most action packed quarters all season, as the two teams scored on all but one possession in the frame. Grove City started off the scoring with 13:45 remaining in the game as Pell connected on a six-yard touchdown to Brian Wels to cut the lead to 21-16, after the extra point was missed.
Bethany responded with an 11-play, 71-yard drive that took almost six minutes off the clock. This time Grimard marched the team down the field through the air, completing a pass to both Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) and Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward), and connecting with Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Beaver Area) three times in the drive. The final catch by Blinn was that of the 16-yard variety which but the Bison in a first-and-goal situation from the Grove City two. Grimard than snuck in for his second rushing TD of the contest. However, the extra point was failed and the Bison went up by 11, 27-16.
Just five plays later, Grove City connected on a 44-yard play-action touchdown pass from Pell to Sam Ivan. Grove City then would convert the two-point conversion to cut the lead to three, 27-24.
Not to be outdone, however, the Bison offense was able to rise up, coming back with a five-play touchdown score of their own. The catalyst of the drive was a 60-yard pitch and catch from Grimard to Blinn which brought the Bison down to the Grove City three.
Grimard then attempted to register his third rushing touchdown of the game, but was hit before he crossed the goal line and fumbled the ball into the endzone. After the ball was kicked by a Grove City defender, offensive lineman James Norkus (Salem, Ohio/Salem) jumped on the ball for his first career touchdown to give Bethany a 34-24 lead.
With the minutes slipping away and just 2:39 remaining in the game, the Bison went into prevent coverage to avoid the big plays. However, Grove City was able to capitalize on the zone coverage and complete four-straight 10+ yards passes, the last being a 14-yard play from Pell to Khalil Evans. Evans got past Scott in the coverage scheme and found the end zone to cut the score back to three, 34-31.
After the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Wolverines, Grove City had one last chance to tie or win the game. Starting on their own 48 yard line, the Wolverines looked as if they were going to do it again, completing the first pass to Evans for a big, 12-yard gain, setting them up with first-and-ten from the Bison 40.
However, on the very next play, the Green and White decided to dial up a blitz package that the Wolverines’ quarterback was not expecting. Kpadehyea came untouched into the backfield and Pell had to throw a jump ball, releasing the throw before he wanted to. Scott, not missing out on the opportunity to make up for the previous drive, out-jumped Evans for the ball, and recorded his first career interception, to preserve the victory for Bethany.
“Channan is an extremely tough kid,” remarked Garvey of his freshman defensive back. “He is just as mentally tough as they come. Grove City was going right at him and beat him for a touchdown on the previous drive, but he didn’t hang his head or make any excuses. He just went out there on the next drive to make plays, and that is exactly what he did.”
Over the course of the contest, Bethany and Grove City played relatively even. Each team totaled exactly 30 minutes on time of possession and each time finished with 21 first downs. The Bison finished the game with 393 yards while Grove City finished with 431. Grimard completed the day in a very efficient way, completing 26-of-32 passes for 323 yards and two scores.
Blinn once again had a great game, as the nation’s leading receiver caught ten passes for 163 yards. Blinn now has 613 yards receiving through just four games, which is only 177 yards away from his season total from last year.
“Blinn has been a beacon of consistency for us,” said Coach Garvey. “They were throwing a bunch of looks at him in the first half and we just couldn’t find ways to get him the ball.
“Where he is so dangerous, however, is that he just waited patiently for his openings, and when he found them in the second half, they were really big for us.”
Chris Collins finished the day with eight catches for 65 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Aaron Frye (Vandergirft, Pa./Kiski) led the way with 7.5 tackles while Michael Howcott came away with his team-leading third fumble recovery. The Bison also held the Wolverines to just 142 yards on the ground, over 100-yards less than their season average.
“I thought our defense played really tough out there,” remarked Garvey. “I give a lot of credit to Coach Watkins and the schemes he put on the field tonight.
‘We have been preaching discipline on the defensive side of the ball all year, and I think that we really started to buy into that mindset in this game.”
Bethany will be back in action on Saturday, October 5 as they play host to the Presidents of Washington & Jefferson. The Bison’s third consecutive home contest is scheduled to be played under the lights at Bison Stadium at 7 p.m.