Oct. 6 - GROVE CITY, Pa. – Grove City (Pa.) College (2-4, 2-2) scored 21 unanswered points to break a 15-15 tie and send the Bethany College football team (2-3, 0-2) to a 36-15 loss Saturday afternoon at Robert E. Thorn Field.
The loss came despite the Bison having more first downs (24-20) and total yards (445-396), but BC was hurt by three turnovers that led to 14 Wolverine points and scoring just seven points in six chances in the red zone.
The missed opportunities started early for the Green and White, as they took the opening kickoff and drove down to the GCC 11 before stalling out. Junior kicker Matt Blumer (Sarasota, Fla./Cardinal Mooney) came on to attempt a 28-yard field goal, but it banged off the cross bar to keep the contest scoreless.
Grove City would take immediate advantage, as they marched 80 yards in eight plays on the ensuing drive for the first score of the day. Wolverine QB Andrew DiDonato capped the drive with a 12-yard scoring pass to Stephen Mercer, but the extra point was wide and GCC’s lead was 6-0.
The Bison would fail to convert two more chances inside the Grove City 20 on their next two possessions, as they turned it over on downs after reaching the Wolverine 11 and 16. After Grove City stopped BC on their 16 early in the second quarter, GCC would take 15 plays to move 84 yards to double their lead to 12-0. RB Ian Tobin finished the drive on a three-yard scoring run, but his attempted pass on the two-point conversion failed and the lead stayed at 12-0.
On their next possession, the Bison put their first points on the board. Freshman Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.), who rushed for more than 100 yards by halftime, completed a nine-play, 62-yard march with a three-yard touchdown run. Blumer’s extra point split the uprights and BC had trimmed their deficit to 12-7.
Bethany would have another golden opportunity for more points just prior to halftime. Starting at their own 32 and with less than two minutes to play, Joyner engineered a drive that reached the Grove City two-yard line. However, the last three plays of the half were a break-up and two passes that Bison receivers couldn’t corral to keep the hosts in front at the break, 12-7.
The Wolverines would open the second half with a drive that ended in a 33-yard field goal by Chris Haley that pushed their advantage to 15-7. Bethany would come back to tie the score late in the third quarter on a big play. Senior QB Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse) lofted a pass deep down the middle that sophomore WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) ran under and took to the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Santini then bulled in for the two-point conversion and the contest was evened up at 15-15 with 1:31 left in the third quarter.
The tie wouldn’t last long, as two long pass plays by DiDonato moved the Wolverines down the field in a hurry. The 75-yard scoring drive ended in four plays when the GCC signal caller ran in from 13 yards out. Once again, the extra point was no good and the Bison were only down by six at 21-15 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bison’s hopes for a comeback would be stopped by crucial turnovers. After Grove City’s go-ahead score, Bethany started driving again. However, GCC safety Zach Fullmer picked off a Joyner pass and returned it the Bethany 18. Three plays later, Tobin scored from the one and then caught the two-point conversion pass to swell the Wolverine cushion to 29-15 with 14:15 to play.
Each team would be forced to punt on their following possessions, but disaster struck the Bison on GCC’s boot. The punt glanced off the hands of the Bison returner at the BC 15 and careened towards the end zone. Grove City’s Mike Baker would fall on the free ball in the end zone for the Wolverine touchdown that made it 36-15 and put the game out of reach for the Bison.
In the loss, the Bethany ground game continued to be a bright spot. Santini gained 151 yards on 21 carries, as BC gained 224 rushing yards on the afternoon. Joyner also had a solid day, completing 17-of-34 passes for 193 yards and one score. His top target was Cruse, who pulled in five balls for 95 yards and one touchdown, his fifth of the year.
On defense, sophomore FS Nelson Mitzen (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) made a career-high 12 tackles, while junior SS Brandon Zeman (Bridgeville, Pa./Chartiers Valley) had nine tackles and broke up two passes.
Grove City’s big man offensively was DiDonato, who was 13-of-21 through the air for 190 yards and one TD, while also rushing for 77 yards and another touchdown. GCC’s top rusher was Brian Mercer with 80 yards on 16 carries, while their top receiver was Mercer with 52 yards on four receptions.
Leading the Wolverine defensive unit was LB Adam Eichler with 15 tackles and LB Bill Waugh with 10 stops.
The Bison will return home next Saturday for the first time since Sept. 15 when they host Waynesburg (Pa.) University for Homecoming. Kickoff at Bethany Field is scheduled for 2 p.m. against the unbeaten Yellow Jackets, who improved to 5-0 with a 42-20 triumph over Saint Vincent (Pa.) College Saturday.