WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Although junior RB Eric Walker rushed
for a career-high 220 yards and three touchdowns, the Bethany
College football team (1-1) had to withstand a last second field
goal that sailed wide left to come away with a 31-29 triumph at
King's (0-2) Saturday as part of the PAC-MAC Challenge.
Walker's big day started on his very first carry of the game, a 53-yard jaunt deep into King's territory on BC's opening drive. Walker would eventually punch it into the end zone from a yard out and the extra point made it 7-0 Bison.
The Monarchs used a 58-yard runback on the kickoff to establish good field position and would eventually settle for a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Cain to make it 7-3. Bethany added to their lead when they got the ball back, as a 26-yard scamper by Walker and a 44-yard run by freshman QB Matt Grimard, who also had a big day on the ground, put the Green and White inside the King's five. Two plays later, Walker took it into the end zone from one yard out again and the margin grew to 13-3 after a missed extra point.
The second quarter would be a far different tale than the first. King's marched 57 yards in 10 plays to find paydirt on a four-yard carry by Matt Spencer to trim the Bethany lead to 13-10. A three-and-out by the Bison was followed three plays later by a 65-yard scoring pass from Corey Lavin to David Abdalla to give King's a 16-13 margin. Bethany would again be forced to punt after three plays and the next Monarchs possession also ended with the Lavin-to-Abdalla connection, this one working for 46 yards and a touchdown to give the home team a 23-13 lead heading into halftime.
The Bison used the intermission to regroup and had a big start to the second half. Following a 49-yard kickoff return by sophomore WR Ed Holmes, six straight running plays put BC in the end zone. Walker had four of the carries for 20 yards, but it was Grimard who put the points on the board with a 15-yard keeper. The pass attempt on the conversion try failed, leaving Bethany down by a 23-19 count.
The rest of the third quarter belonged to the Bison, as they forced a quick punt from the Monarchs and drove back down to the King's seven before turning the ball over on downs. The Green and White defense forced another punt and BC took over on the Monarch 37. Grimard would play a huge role on the ensuing drive that put Bethany on top for good. Twice he ran for first down yardage on third down plays and he also tossed a short completion to convert another third down situation. Finally, with the Bison facing third and goal from the three, Grimard hit sophomore WR Johnathan Foster with a touchdown pass to make it 25-23 BC early in the fourth quarter.
A key third down sack by junior DE Kasib Taalib-Din stalled a King's drive at midfield on their next possession and Walker added to his huge day when Bethany took possession. One play after Grimard tossed a 27-yard pass to sophomore WR Marcus D'Aguiar-Alexander on third-and-five, Walker broke away for a 48-yard touchdown run, his third of the day. The Bison would miss the extra point again, leaving it a one-possession game at 31-23 with 7:18 to play.
That lead wouldn't stay at eight points for long, as the first play after the kickoff, Lavin found Abdalla again, this time for a 62-yard touchdown strike, to bring King's within two at 31-29. Penalties proved costly to the Monarchs in their attempt to tie the game, as one after the touchdown pushed them back to the 18 for the two-point conversion attempt. Lavin hit Abdalla again for the tying two-point score, but a holding penalty nullified the score and their next try failed, preserving the two-point Bethany advantage.
The Bison managed to take three and a half minutes off the clock with their next drive, but ended up punting back to King's, who took over at their own 32. They converted a pair of third downs to keep the drive going and reached the Bison 15 when a running play pushed them back three yards before taking a timeout with two seconds left. The 35-yard field try by Cain as time expired would have won the game for King's, but the attempt sailed wide left and Bethany escaped with the win and avoided their first 0-2 start since 2004.
The Bethany ground attack was the key to the game, as it piled up 387 yards, the most by BC since setting a school-record with 482 yards against Saint Vincent Sept. 15, 2007. Walker sparked the effort with 32 carries for 220 yards, the fourth-most in Bethany single-game history and the most since Will Anderson ripped off 234 yards against Kenyon in 2002. The three rushing touchdowns by Walker give him 24 in his time as a Bison, which surpasses Anderson's total of 23 for the most in BC history.
Grimard turned in a stellar effort as well, as he gained 150 yards on the ground to become the first Bethany signal caller to go over 100 rushing yards in a game since Bob Fromm totaled 100 against Gannon in the 1995 season finale. The freshman QB completed just 8-of-16 passes, but four of his completions picked up first downs on third down plays. D'Aguiar-Alexander grabbed a team-high four passes for 39 yards.
Bethany's defense, which held the Monarchs to 307 yards, was led by sophomore LB Kyle Arrington, who made eight tackles, including a sack, and broke up a pass.
After earning just one of two wins posted by the PAC during Saturday's early match-ups with the MAC, joining Grove City who beat Lebanon Valley, Bethany will open up PAC play next Saturday at Washington & Jefferson. The Presidents, who were ranked 20th in this week's D3Football.com poll, suffered a 27-0 defeat at #10 Delaware Valley Saturday in their season opener. Kickoff in Washington is scheduled for 7 p.m.