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SPECIAL TEAMS SPARK BISON’S 41-7 ROUT OVER THIEL

Oct. 16 - GREENVILLE, Pa. – Behind three special teams’ touchdowns, including a kickoff return and blocked punt, the Bethany College football team rolled to a 41-7 victory at Thiel Saturday to run their winning streak to three games, the program’s longest since 2001.

In addition, the victory moved the Bison to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the PAC, a game behind first place Thomas More (6-0, 4-0), who will visit BC next Saturday. It was also the third road win of the year for the Green and White, which is their highest total since winning three on the road during a 7-3 season in 1995.

Bethany’s offense put the opening two scores on the board. After forcing Thiel (0-6, 0-4) to punt on their opening possession, the Bison moved 80 yards in nine plays to reach paydirt for the first time. The Bison converted two third downs opportunities on the march when freshman QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) connected with sophomore WR C.J. Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian) for passes of 16 and 27 yards. On the next play after the second pass to Thomas, Grimard ran 13 yards into the end zone and the extra point by freshman Joe St. Clair (Huntington, W.Va.) made it 7-0 Bethany.

The BC defense set up the next scoring drive, as sophomore LB Willis Powell (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) picked off a pass at the Tomcat 49. During the seven-play drive, Grimard again found Thomas for gains of 16 and 14, respectively, to convert third down situations and one play after the latter conversion, Grimard carried it 12 yards for the touchdown. His ninth rushing score of the season was followed by another St. Clair extra point to extend the Bison lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter.

The second quarter started with Thiel driving down the field for their best scoring opportunity of the half, but on fourth-and-two at the Bethany five, sophomore DE Robert Baker (Colquitt, Ga./Miller County) and sophomore LB McQuel Sims (Colquitt, Ga./Miller County) stopped Thiel RB Justin Wazelle a yard short to turn the ball back over on downs to BC.

The only score of the second quarter came less than a minute before halftime. On fourth down at their own 26, Thiel sent out the punt team but the snap sailed into the end zone. Tomcat punter Tony Rozzi tried to recover it, but Bethany freshman WR Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) streaked in and pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for the touchdown and the Green and White lead expanded to 21-0, which is where the margin stood at halftime.

The second half had an explosive start for the Bison. Junior CB Jeff Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) took the second half kickoff, sprinted through a seam and darted 87 yards down the right sideline for the score to put BC ahead 28-0. It was the first kickoff return by a Bethany player since Taylor McNeil returned one 93 yards in a victory over Hiram on Sept. 9, 2006.

On their second possession of the half, Thiel was forced to punt again from their 31. This time the snap bounced back to Rozzi, who bobbled it and that allowed Collins to come swooping in to block the punt. The ball rolled back towards the goal line and sophomore WR Jarrell Smalls (Whitmire, S.C.) fell on the pigskin in the end zone for the Bison’s third consecutive special teams score. Thiel blocked the extra point, leaving the score at 34-0 with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.

Bethany’s final trip to the end zone came midway through the fourth quarter and was again set up by a big special teams play. Freshman FS Jordan Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) returned a punt 35 yards to the Bison 49. Following five consecutive runs, Grimard fired a 29-yard scoring pass to Collins for his second TD of the afternoon and third scoring reception of the year to make it a 41-0 count in BC’s favor.

The only mystery left the rest of the game was whether the Bison could hold Thiel off the scoreboard and record their first shutout since 2001. Unfortunately, Bethany came within 1:35 of reaching that goal, but the Tomcats finally put point on the board when QB Andrew Smith tossed a nine-yard scoring pass to Tyler Brophy-Davis on fourth down, which made the final score 41-7.

Due to the big plays by the special teams, Bethany’s offense ran a season-low 49 plays and gained just 305 yards, their second-lowest total of the year. Grimard again had impressive numbers, completing 10-of-12 through the air for 157 yards and the one score while rushing for a team-high 60 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target in the passing game was Thomas, who hauled in a career-high seven balls, including five to convert third down plays, for 118 yards, also a personal-best.

The Bison defense was stellar in the victory, as they held the Tomcats to 175 yards, the lowest total since limiting Saint Vincent to 117 in a victory in Sept., 2007. They also forced two turnovers and had a pair of quarterback sacks, including 1.5 by junior DE Kasib Taalib-Din (New York, N.Y./Central Park East), which gives him 5.5 for the season. Other big contributors Saturday included Jeff Joyce, who added eight tackles to his kickoff return for a touchdown, and sophomore LB Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Pa./Jackson), who was also in on eight stops.

Bethany’s next order of business is a tall one, as they will host Thomas More next weekend after the Saints put away pesky Saint Vincent for a 24-6 victory Saturday. Thomas More, who has won 17 consecutive regular season games dating back to the end of the 2008 season, is ranked ninth in this week’s AFCA poll and 11th in the D3Football.com poll. Kickoff at Bison Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.