Sept. 30 - BETHANY, W. Va. - The Bethany College football team will look to capture their fourth consecutive victory when they travel to Cleveland, Ohio to take on the Spartans of Case Western Reserve University. The meeting between the two schools marks the first conference game between Bethany and Case since 1983. Full game notes can be seen below.
The Bison: Bethany enters the game as winners of three-straight contests, having held off Waynesburg University 33-27 in their previous game. In the win, the Bison jumped out to a 19-0 halftime lead before finding themselves in a shootout in the second half. The first half saw the Green & White post three touchdowns, two of which were on the ground. Senior Brandon Hill found the end zone from one yard out in the first quarter, and sophomore defensive end Brandon Barnes ran the ball in from three yards on to give the Bison a 13-0 lead. Sophomore QB Brian Vales also found junior Eric Blinn on a 41-yard screen play to round out the first-half scoring, 19-0. The second half saw two more scores by the Bison. Vales found senior Chris Collins on a 50-yard TD pass, and Hill ran in his second of the game, but the Bison still found themselves up just six points with 4:03 to play in the game. The Yellow Jackets made things interesting, getting to the Bison ten-yard line with just under a second to play. The Bison defense stood strong, however, as junior linebacker Larry Kpadehyea picked off a Carter Hill pass to seal the win for Bethany. In the game, Kpadehyea finished with 12 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bison showed a balanced attack, racking up 495 total yards. Bethany gained 231 yards rushing and 264 yards through the air.
The Spartans: Case Western comes into the game with the Bison having won their previous contest, a 23-16 victory over Thiel College last Saturday. The Tomcats and Spartans found themselves tied at 16 late in the fourth quarter, but a game-winning drive led by senior quarterback Billy Beecher gave the Spartans the lead with just 1:08 to play in the game. Beecher hooked up with freshman wideout Luke DiFrancesco for a 23-yard pass to push Case Western to 2-1 on the season. Beecher finished the contest 16-of-29 for 174 yards.
The Series: This year’s meeting between the Bison and Spartans will mark the 15th all-time showdown between the two schools since 1970. The two programs have only played games as members of the same conference. The team’s played each other 14 times between 1970 and 1983 when Case was still a member of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. During that span, Bethany held a 12-2 advantage, but Case Western had won the final two meetings in 1982 and 1983. Now that Case Western has rejoined the PAC in football, the two programs will meet for the first time in 31 years.
The Coaches: Bethany’s Bill Garvey and Case Western’s Greg Debeljak will meet head-to-head for the first time on Saturday.
Garvey, who is in his second season as the head coach of the Bison, is 7-7 through his first 14 games at the helm. His .500 record is tied for the fourth-best start in school history by a head coach. His record through the first 14 games also marks the best by any coach since Robert Goin started 7-7 between the seasons of 1963 and 1964.
Debeljak is in his 11th season at the helm of the Spartans and has a record of 74-32. He has seen just one losing season in his tenure at Case (2005) and has led the Spartans to three NCAA national playoff berths (2007-2009). This season, Debeljak has the Spartans sitting at 2-1 in their first season in the PAC since 1983. Already this year, he has led Case Western to victories over Carnegie Mellon (33-0) and Thiel College (23-16).
Disruptive Force: The Bethany College defense has hung their hat on their ability to be a nightmare for opposing offenses, constantly finding their way into the backfield to stop both the run and the pass at the point of attack. So far on the year the Green & White have 38 tackles for loss and 15 sacks on the season. Not only do those numbers rank first in the conference, but they rank tied for 18th and 20th in all of Division III, respectively. Junior defensive end Nadim Raddar leads the solid defense in both of those categories as he has totaled 10.0 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks on the year. Both of those numbers also rank among the nation’s elite. His seven sacks on the season currently rank fourth in the Nation.
So far this season, a different Bison has led the way for the defense in all four contests. Sophomore Khallid Pierce gave the Bison a spark in their opening game against the University of Mount Union, finishing the contest with 4.5 tackles for loss. Raddar led the Green & White against Thiel, racking up 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Junior Donavan Hayden was the hero against Westminster, totaling 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception, while junior Larry Kpadehyea was the driving force in the victory over Waynesburg, totaling 12 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and the big interception as time expired.
It has been a total collaborative effort for the Bison “D” this season, as six different players are averaging at least five tackles per game. 11 different Bison have also notched at least one tackle for loss, contributing to Bethany’s conference-leading, 38.
Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: The Bison are in unfamiliar territory in 2014, as they currently rank third in conference in rushing yards per game. The Bison are currently averaging 166.2 rushing yards per contest after ranking among the bottom in that category over the past three years. Senior Brandon Hill’s emergence as the feature back has helped the Bison produce solid numbers in the run game. Last week, Hill carried the ball 28 times for 148 yards and two scores. The Bethany offensive line has been key to the success of the run game, as the front five have helped Bethany average 4.0 yards per carry this season. This week, the offensive balance that the Green & White have seen will be put to the test, as they go up against the conference’s top run defense. The Spartans will come into the game with Bethany allowing just 83.3 yards per game on the ground.
Blinnsanity: Junior receiver Eric Blinn totaled 12 catches for 148 yards and a score last week against Waynesburg. It marked his second-straight 100-yard game for Blinn. During the contest he also set the Bethany career mark for receptions and now stands alone at the top with 181. It took Blinn just 24 games to achieve that record and he currently stands as the career active leader in Division III in receptions per game (7.5). He is the only receiver in the country that is averaging at least seven catches per game in a career. With his 148-yard performance, he has also become the Nation’s active leader in receiving yards per game (103.4).
Bison Under the Lights: During the 2014 campaign, the Bison will play in a total of four night games. Already with two under their belt, Bethany has posted victories in both of their night games so far. The team upended Thiel 45-24 in their first night game at Alumni Stadium. They then toppled Waynesburg 33-27 in their only night contest at home this season. In the Coach Garvey era, the Bison are 3-1 under the lights with their lone loss coming against Geneva in week two of last season.
Keep the Streak Alive: Bethany will look to capture their fourth-straight win for the first time under coach Garvey when they take on the Spartans on Saturday. Bethany has not had a four-game winning streak since the 2001 campaign, when the team started the year 5-0.
Up Next: Next week, the Bison will return home on October 11 to take on the other new member to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, Carnegie Mellon, at 2:00 p.m. The contest will also be homecoming for Bethany with Hall of Fame festivities also being held during the weekend.