Bethany at Wash. & Jeff. Preview
The Bethany College football, who held on to beat King's
last week to even their record at 1-1, will kick off PAC play
Saturday night with a match-up against longtime rival Washington
& Jefferson at 7 p.m. in W&J's Cameron Stadium.
Twenty second quarter points by King's last Saturday put the Bison in a 23-13 halftime deficit. But BC answered with 18 consecutive points and held off a late Monarchs rally, including a potential game-winning field goal as time expired that sailed wide left, to come away with a 31-29 victory. Bethany out-gained King's 387-85 on the ground, led by junior RB Eric Walker's 220 yards, and while head coach Tim Weaver was happy with that production, he wants to see the passing game improve, starting this week.
"Last week was a really good win," said Weaver, who has never seen his program get off to a 0-2 start in his five years at the helm. "Anytime you win on the road, but especially when we were down at the half, had to fight our way back to the lead and then held on at the end, it's a big boost. The good news is we dominated the game statistically and were much more physical, gaining more than 300 yards than they did on the ground, which we haven't done.
"We also need to focus on where we can get better," said Weaver. "Offensively, we know we have to start making plays in the passing game, beginning this week."
The trigger man on the Bethany offense is freshman QB Matt Grimard, who rushed for 150 yards and one score to become the first Bethany signal caller in 15 years to gain over 100 rushing yards in a game. His ability to make plays with his legs is a big benefit to the Bison offense, but Weaver says his key focus should be on making the air attack click, as he went 8-for-16 for 58 yards and a score last week.
"Matt's running ability really opens everything up, especially giving us the chance to run counter plays without misdirection," said Weaver. "He has a very unique set of skills, including a good knack for when to pull the ball back on zone reads and he sees the field like a running back.
"It was great that it helped us win the football game, but we stressed that his accuracy must improve for us to beat the better teams on our schedule," said Weaver. "He made a great throw on a third down play last week to Marcus (D'Aguiar-Alexander) on an adjustment they made together, which was encouraging. It will be a process, as he learns our offense and we learn what he can do. He isn't like Chad (Smith, last year's starter for most of the season), as every quarterback has a different set of skills and we have to play to his natural abilities because there isn't time in a game week to rebuild stuff."
Weaver also sees room for improvement on special teams and defense. The main area of concern after last week came from the Bison kicking game, as they missed four extra points, which allowed King's to have a chance at the end. This week, Bethany will turn to freshman Robert Headden to handle the place kicking duties.
"Our extra point situation is an embarrassment to me because I coach the special teams," said Weaver. "If we make two of those four we missed last week, they aren't lining up for a field goal to win the game last week. This is no different than any other spot. It's a competition and you have to perform to keep your job, so we'll give Headden a look this week."
The defense turned in another strong outing, despite the 29 points allowed. Bethany gave up only 307 total yards in the game, but 173 of those (56 percent) came on three long scoring passes. Eliminating those big plays, which Weaver says isn't a case of blown assignments as much as not being aggressive enough, will be the focal point for this Saturday.
"We've probably had our best two-game stretch in the last three years, but it doesn't matter if you can't stop the big play," said Weaver. "We gave up over 50 percent of the total yards on three plays last game. It's not blown coverages, it's more about competition at the point of attack. If you compare our yards allowed to points allowed, they don't match up. We are playing consistently very well, but have to finish passing plays at the point of attack."
Washington & Jefferson comes into Saturday night off a 27-0 loss at #10 Delaware Valley last week. The Presidents were out-gained 466-67, as the Aggies held W&J to -11 rushing yards. After averaging 42 points in wins over Bethany and Waynesburg to close out the 2009 regular season, W&J was blanked by perennial power Mount Union in the NCAA playoffs 55-0 last year and then suffered the shut out Saturday. Despite the recent losses, Weaver says the quality opponents has more to do with the Presidents struggles more than anything.
"They certainly haven't been helped by who they've played," said Weaver. "Mount would embarrass anyone and watching Del Valley on film, they are the best non-conference opponent any of us have played and are truly a Top 10 team. There is no mistake about the team we're going to see Saturday night. Each of the last two years, we've played W&J the week after they've lost to Thomas More and they knew they couldn't lose again, so they have been a very focused and business-like team when we've played them. They are facing nine straight must-win games and for us, it's a step up in class compared to the first two teams we've faced. They are stronger and more explosive than who we've played to this point."
The President defense was the stronger part of the team last year, as they didn't allow anyone to score more than 16 points in 2009 until the playoff game. While the numbers show a tough start to 2010 for W&J, Weaver says a lot of credit should go to Delaware Valley for their long drives and forcing the Presidents to play defense for nearly 40 minutes.
"They had to play way too much football Saturday, but they are still good," said Weaver. "Del Valley had a bunch of 10-, 12-, 14-play drives and you always tell your defense that offense can't be mistake-free for that many plays in a row, but Del Valley did and it led to the win.
"W&J's back seven are as good as we'll see," said Weaver. "They have new faces up front, but their program just replaces good players with more good players, which is where we are trying to get to here."
For the Bison to have a chance at the upset Saturday, they need to play mistake-free football, which they didn't last year when they committed six turnovers in a 49-0 loss, and not be awed by playing a perennial Top 25 team on the road in a night game, which Weaver says is up to the upperclassmen to show their leadership.
"Our key as a program this year is to not worry about who we're playing," said Weaver. "We have enough veterans on this team that we should not be intimidated by who we're playing or the environment. Last year, we were not better than W&J, but they were not seven touchdowns better than us if you take out the turnovers. However, when you give the ball to them an extra six times, you end up with last year's result. On Saturday, we want to come out swinging early, take care of the ball and give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter."