Oct. 19 – WAYNESBURG, Pa. – What a difference a year makes. Last season the Bison were defeated by Waynesburg University on a last second field goal. This season, it was once again a field goal that turned the tide, but in a different way. With 2:27 remaining in the game, and the contest tied at 20, sophomore Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt, and then sophomore Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) scored the game-winning touchdown eight plays later to give Bethany the 27-20 victory on Saturday afternoon in Waynesburg.
The win over the Yellow-Jackets gave the Bison (3-3, 3-1 PAC) the team's first win in Waynesburg since 1996. The victory also gave Bethany a three-game winning streak, the longest winning streak the team has seen since the 2010 season.
Bethany opened the game, moving the ball efficiently into Waynesburg territory before sputtering out on downs at the Waynesburg 41 yard line. On the ensuing Waynesburg possession, the Yellow Jackets managed to get down inside the Bethany 10-yard line, thanks to a pass interference call. However, The Bison then forced two incomplete passes from Carter Hill and held on a third-and-goal from the Bethany seven, to force a field goal try. The kick was made, and Waynesburg went up, 3-0.
On Bethany's next drive, the offense again moved the ball efficiently, getting into Waynesburg territory on just three plays, but the drive was cut short on a turnover. A fumble on a five-yard completion was picked up by the Yellow-Jackets and returned to the Bison 20-yard line. However, the defense once again held strong.
Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) picked up his first sack of the day, getting to Hill for a nine-yard loss on first down, and kept Waynesburg from getting anything going. The Yellow Jackets once again would settle for a field-goal, this time from 38-yards out, and extend the lead to 6-0.
On the ensuing possession that would extend into the second quarter, the Bison found their answer. On a drive that faced two third downs, Bethany was able to convert them both. The first, a third-and-one from the Bethany 44, Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) found Blinn for a one yard gain to move the chains. The second, a third-and-four from the Waynesburg 49, Grimard and Blinn hooked up again, this time for 24 yards, down to the Waynesburg 25.
On the first play of the second quarter, Grimard found Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) on a swing pass, and Hill sprinted the 14 yards to the end zone, untouched, to knot the game at 6-6. The extra point hit off the post, and the score remained tied.
Twice more in the second quarter, the Bison found themselves in the Waynesburg red zone, only to be turned away on interceptions. The first came with Bethany on the Waynesburg six-yard line as Grimard was picked off at the one-yard line. The latter of the two came with the Bison on the Yellow-Jacket 11. Grimard's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and hauled in by a Waynesburg defender to once again turn away the Bethany drive.
With time running out in the first half, the Yellow-Jackets made a push, turning the second interception into a 10-play, 91-drive that culminated with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Zac Capan with 44 seconds remaining to put Waynesburg in front, 13-6 going into the break.
"The defense really kept us in the game in the first half," remarked first-year head coach, Bill Garvey. "We weren't able to do some of the things that we wanted to on offense, and turnovers really hurt. However, our defense played their hearts out and kept the game close for us."
Despite outgaining Waynesburg, 234-142, in the first half, Bethany saw themselves at a seven-point disadvantage at the break. However, the offense would find its rhythm and turn it around in the second-stanza.
In the start of the second half, the Bison defense opened the frame forcing a Waynesburg punt. The key play coming on a third-and-three at the Bethany 44, as Nick Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) got to Carter Hill for the sack, forcing the fourth down. The ensuing punt, and a block in the back penalty pinned the Bison down inside their own five-yard line.
Bethany would open the drive with four consecutive first downs. Two, 12-yard runs by Phil Acrie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley), as well as two Grimard completions; one a 21-yarder to Blinn, the other an 11-yard pitch-and-catch to Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline), had the Bison to mid-field in just four plays.
The Bison would get some help from a personal foul on Waynesburg to set them up with a first-and-10 from the Yellow Jacket's 13-yard line. Two players later, Grimard found freshman Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Pa./Northwest), as he beat two defenders and made a leaping catch for the 11-yard score, to tie the game at 13-13.
On the very next drive, Waynesburg responded, getting 33-yards rushing from Jerry Lawman, including the one-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive, and re-take the lead, 20-13, with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter.
Bethany would not go away, and the offense, playing with a new confidence, would go on a 15-play, 68-yard drive that would span 8:25 of the game. On the drive, the Bison would convert on three, third-down and two, fourth-down plays. The biggest coming on a fourth-and-goal from the Waynesburg three-yard line, as Grimard found Blinn on a back-shoulder pass in the corner of the end zone to knot the game again, 20-20.
A three-and-out by both teams gave the ball back to the Yellow-Jackets on their own 20-yard line looking to score the go-ahead touchdown. Waynesburg got two big conversions; one, a fourth-down run by Carter Hill and the other a 33-yard completion on third-and-nine that had them knocking on the door at the Bethany 16.
With a fourth-down on the Bison eight-yard line, the game looked as if it were going to repeat the outcome of last year, with the Yellow Jackets taking the lead late on a field goal. However, the Bison line made a great push and Williams blocked the kick. Wyssmy Despagne (Riverdale, Pa./Parkdale) recovered the ball at the Bison two-yard line, and Bethany was in business with the score tied, 20-20, and 2:20 remaining in the contest.
Having zero timeouts, and 98-yards to reach pay-dirt, the Bison offense never lost focus. Grimard got Bethany out of the shadow of its' own end zone with a 14-yard scamper to the Bethany 16-yard line. Three plays later, on a third-and-10, Grimard hit on an 18-yard strike to Hill for a fresh set of downs. After back-to-back incomplete passes, and just under 30 seconds to play, Bethany once again found itself looking at third-and-10.
Grimard dropped back to throw and found Blinn for the first-down yardage. However, Blinn didn't stop there, shaking off two defenders, and cutting up-field. Five yards later, Blinn turned on the jets and no one in an orange jersey could catch him as he went 68-yards for the go-ahead score, 27-20, with just 20 seconds to play in the contest. It was the second touchdown connection for Grimard and Blinn on the day.
"I just knew I had to do something," remarked Blinn of the play. "Grimard made a great throw and I caught it. But I realized that if I wasn't going to get to the sideline, I better do something with it."
Waynesburg would have one final crack at the end zone on a first-and-ten from the Bethany 39. With the Bison in prevent coverage, Hill dropped back to throw, but Pierce and Jarrett Rahymes (Colquitt, Ga./Miller County) put the pressure on and Rahymes came away with the sack to end the game, with the Bison taking the 27-20 victory.
"It was a great win out there for us today," commented Coach Garvey. "One thing that we have stressed to this team is to never give up.
"The defense played terrific all game long and the offense turned it around in the second half. It was a special win for us out there and this is a really special group of guys who really deserved this victory."
For the game, Bethany dominated the stat sheet, outgaining Waynesburg, 481-301. Bethany totaled 369 yards passing and 112 on the ground, while holding Waynesburg to just 76 yards rushing (2.4 yards per carry) and 225 passing yards. Bethany also controlled the time of possession (34:15-25:45) and converted on 8-of-15 third down tries, their best output on third down this season.
"I couldn't be any more proud of our defense than I am today," said Garvey. "Coach (Jacoby) Watkins had the guys ready to play, and they came out here and laid it all on the line. They continue to get better every week."
In a contest that pitted two of the nations' top quarterbacks, Grimard came out on top. The senior captain threw for 369 yards on 33-of-46 and four scores while also running for 43 yards for a total output of 412 yards. The game marks the third time this season that Grimard has totaled 400+ yards of total offense.
On the other side of the ball, the defense seemed to apply constant pressure to Carter Hill, who came in as the nation's second-leading passer. Hill finished with 225 yards passing and -33 yards in the run game, for a total of 192 yards. Hill was also sacked four times in the contest.
Blinn once again made his presence known as he caught 11 passes for 153 yards and two scores. This was the fourth time Blinn has caught at least 10 passes and the fifth with 100+ yards. It was also the third-time this season he has eclipsed 150 yards. However, Blinn wasn't the only one who made an impact on the offensive end as Grimard found eight different receivers. Hill had 5 catches for 58 yards and a score while Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henrey E. Lackey) also registered five receptions. Ambush notched his second TD of the season while making four catches for 61 yards.
"We have a talented group of receivers out there," remarked Blinn. "We owe everything that we are as a unit to the coaching staff, but we have a lot of guys that can just step out there and make plays."
Defensively, captain Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W. Va./Martinsburg) led the Bison with seven tackles while Michael Howcott (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) and Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) added six each. Pierce notched 2.0 sacks on the day, while Greer and Rahymes added one each. Dylan Stewart (Claridge, Pa./Penn-Trafford) added a tackle for loss, as did Greg Roberson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) over the course of the game.
With the win, the Bison are in a four-way tie for first place in the PAC at 3-1. W&J, Geneva and Thomas More all also sit at 3-1 in conference play while the loss drops Waynesburg to 3-2 in PAC action. Bethany will be back in action on Saturday, October 26, as they return home for a bout with Westminster. The contest is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kick off.