After a disappointing result in their opening week, the Bethany
College football team will head out on the road in search of their
first win this year when they travel to King's College for
non-conference tilt. Kickoff in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is schedule for
This game is part of the inaugural PAC-MAC Challenge, a series of games between nine members of the PAC and the Middle Athletic Conference, which has schools from central through eastern Pa., and into New Jersey. The Bison and Monarchs will play at King's this season and square off again next year in the second week at Bethany.
"We're very excited to be involved in the PAC-MAC series," said Bethany head coach Tim Weaver. "King's is a very big, physical football team with a veteran quarterback and a really tough defense. They were very competitive against a strong Springfield team, which is a credit to their new staff for having their team ready to play and not be intimidated by such a tough opponent on the road right out of the gate. It will be a very difficult match up for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Bethany's 2010 season started on a down note last week with a 28-0 loss to Allegheny. A pair of early turnovers led directly to Gator TDs and another Allegheny score just before halftime put the Bison in a 21-0 hole. Despite 73 rushing yards and six receptions for 42 yards by junior RB Eric Walker, BC's offense managed only 202 yards in the defeat and committed four turnovers, including three interceptions in freshman QB Matt Grimard's first game, which Weaver says can be attributed to a number of things.
"We had a lot of typical first game stuff happen to us offensively last week," said Weaver. "First off, anytime you lose the turnover battle 4-0, you can't expect to win, especially against a good football team like Allegheny. We had breakdowns up front and need to make it a little simpler for Matt. His second pick was 100 percent on the coaching staff because he followed his reads like he was supposed to and Allegheny didn't react like we thought they would. And our receivers can block better on the perimeter because we had things in our screens, but they need to be better on the point of attack to open things up.
"The good news to last week is that everything could be fixed," said Weaver. "We knew Allegheny's scheme and alignment would cause problems and it did, so give them credit for being a good football team."
While at first glance, giving up 28 points looked like a bad day for the Bethany defense, those looks would be deceiving. Allegheny's worst starting field position in the first half was their own 40 and they gained just 288 total yards, the second-lowest total allowed by a Bison defense since 2007. In addition, BC stalled out two Gator drives that resulted in missed field goals and stopped another Allegheny possession that started at the Bison 24. Saturday's results actually gave Weaver and his staff optimism for the defense in the coming weeks.
"For the most part, the defense played very well, but the problem is, 65 plays can go well, but if you make four mistakes, they lead to scores," said Weaver. "We had good coverage on their first two scoring passes and their guy just made a play. On the score right before halftime, they had a very good quarterback who led a solid two-minute drill in which we made two coverage mistakes and the touchdown came on a great throw.
"But we had to defend their offense on half a field for most of the day because of the turnovers and our guys didn't pout and kept playing hard," said Weaver. "We made plays in the backfield, forced stops in the red zone and did things we haven't done here before. Overall, we were very, very encouraged by how the defense played on Saturday."
Although they didn't lead Bethany in tackles Saturday, the BC defensive ends were big reasons for the improved play. Junior Kasib Taalib-Din finished with eight tackles, including one sack, and broke up a pass, while sophomore Robert Baker had three stops, including a big stop for a nine-yard loss on a reverse that knocked Allegheny out of field goal range.
"Our two defensive ends seem like they are figuring it out," said Weaver. "They are both big and fast and made big plays Saturday, with Robert stopping the reverse and Kasib batting down a pass and getting a sack. If we get production like that from our ends, our defense instantly gets better, so that was a big positive on Saturday."
King's also brings a 0-1 record into the game after suffering a 31-7 defeat at Springfield last week in their first game under new head coach Jeff Knarr. The Monarchs trailed 10-7 in the second quarter following a seven-yard scoring pass from Corey Lavin to Glenn Ford, but Springfield scored the final 21 points of the game, including scoring passes of 28 and 71 yards. King's had just two fewer first downs than Springfield (17-15) and held the ball for more than 38 minutes, but were done in by three interceptions.
One player to watch for the Monarchs is RB Eric Ofcharsky, who piled up 258 all-purpose yards last week with 134 on the ground, 47 receiving and 77 on kick returns. The offensive line he runs behind is mountainous, with three players over 300 pounds and the unit averaging 297 pounds per man. The defense's fate was similar to the Bison in that a solid effort, which included two sacks and two forced fumbles, was stained by the big plays. Linebacker Ryan Cordingly posted an impressive line of seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.
"Defensively, King's played very well, especially for their first game under a new staff," said Weaver. "A couple big plays hurt them at the end, but Springfield is perennially very good, so it was a good showing on the road.
"On offense, they are huge and maybe the biggest team we've played in my time," said Weaver. "Ofcharsky is a DII transfer and they find a lot of different ways to get the ball in his hands, whether it's running plays, catching the ball out of the backfield or on kick returns, so he is dangerous. They have an experienced senior quarterback they trust and managed to play keep-a-way from a good opponent for nearly 40 minutes, so we have a challenge ahead of us Saturday."
This match-up with King's means the Bison will be making a trip of better than six hours for the contest. However, coming on the heels of a tough setback in the opener, Weaver thinks this might be exactly what his young program needs, a chance to get away and just focus on this football game.
"Getting an overnight trip like this can help us because it will be just us, all together on the bus, in the hotel and at our team meals," said Weaver. "It's part of our whole message for the year: we are young, but we are talented and should improve significantly every week and be a completely different team from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 to Nov. 1. We are not concerned with who our opponent is, where we are playing or even the final score. If we focus on getting better every week, the wins will take care of themselves."