With a tough loss to Washington & Jefferson in the rearview mirror, the Bethany College football team will try to get back on track and start building momentum for the remainder of the season Saturday night with a road game at Geneva. Kickoff in Beaver Falls, Pa., is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bethany's offense was paced by senior RB Eric Walker with 112 rushing yards and one TD and on defense by junior LB Kyle Arrington with 15 tackles, but the mistakes were too numerous to overcome.
The errors in Saturday's game were similar to the ones made in Bethany's 28-7 victory at Allegheny in the opener, as the Bison overcame three fumbles and three costly penalties. The volume of miscues against W&J made it a painful lesson for the Bison to learn and although his team proved they could play with a traditionally strong program like the Presidents, Weaver said there were no celebrations because of a closer game.
"The mistakes we made were the same general ones we talked about after Allegheny," said Weaver. "You can't put the ball on the ground and you can't have plays taken away because of penalties. But for young people, it's harder to learn a lesson when you win than when it costs you a game.
"And we don't look at playing with W&J as a moral victory," said Weaver. "I had pats on the back and people saying it was a good effort, but we're past that as a program. We expect to go out and win now."
A surprising source of the Bethany mistakes came from the offensive line, which has long been a stable of consistency for the team. The Bison ground game did gain 204 yards and average 4.6 yards per carry and while Weaver did credit the group for battling W&J to a physical standstill, he expects them to atone for last week's lapses.
"(The line's) play last week was surprising and disappointing," said Weaver. "They are an experienced group and we count on them, but we had four false starts and three holding penalties. They showed how good they can be because for the first time in our time here, we blocked W&J. There was nothing gimmicky, we just came off the ball hard and blocked their whole front seven most of the time. It was a physical battle in which we won some and they won some, but what tipped the balance were our penalties. But we expect them to bounce back and give a big effort this week."
Another area that experienced some ups and downs last week was the Bethany special teams. On the bright side, senior Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.), who caught a game-high seven passes for 83 yards, averaged 25.2 yards on six kickoff returns and freshman punter Stephen Amic (McDonald, Pa./West Allegheny) averaged more than 40 yards per punt, including a 50-yard boot. However, Weaver is still looking for a complete game from the unit, as W&J broke a big punt return and the kickoffs need to be longer.
"Part of our success on special teams goes to better recruiting and having more depth and fresh legs to run out there," said Weaver. "Alex has settled in at kickoff returns and we have guys we trust to catch punts. But our guys need to understand every single play is crucial. W&J was able to get outside our punt contain for a big return to set up a touchdown. Stephen's punting has been very good and his kickoffs were good against Allegheny, but they were short last week.
"So we've been good but we can get better," said Weaver. "Like most young players, the challenge is consistency."
The first three games have been challenging for Geneva, who is off to a 0-3 start. The schedule has not been kind to the Golden Tornadoes, who lost to 3-0 Albright two weeks ago and suffered a 41-6 defeat at #8 Thomas More last Saturday. The Saints raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead and Geneva was limited to only 210 total yards, 70 of which came on its scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, which was capped off by a one-yard scoring run from Jordan Curry.
Last season, the GTs boasted one of the more dynamic playmaking combinations of quarterback David Girardi and running back Gerard Muschette. Both have graduated and left holes that Geneva is trying to fill. The new starter under center is 6-4, 185-pound sophomore Zach Hayward, who has thrown for 617 yards and three scores and he has talented wide outs in AJ Delmonico (11 rec., 129 yards, 1 TD) and Corey O'Patchen (eight rec., 98 yards) They combined to catch 11 passes for 246 yards and three TDs in last year's 37-33 Geneva win at Bethany, which was their sixth straight win over BC dating back to 1973.
The GT running attack has struggled to gain yards this season, averaging just 53 yards per game and only 1.7 per carry. Despite the early season questions with the running game, Weaver expects the veteran coaching staff for Geneva, led by 19-year head coach Geno DeMarco, to get it straightened out quickly.
"Losing Muschette gives them a completely different look obviously," said Weaver. "They are still trying to figure out what to do with their running game, but they have an experienced line and a coaching staff that has been around for a really long time, so they'll figure it out. Their quarterback isn't too different from Girardi. He's a big kid who runs well but isn't really fast. Their formations and plays are the same, so it's more of an experience factor right now.
"They've played two really good teams in a row and are learning a lot about what they want to do," said Weaver. "They know they have two good wide receivers in Delmonico and O'Patchen, who just toyed with us last year. We had no answer and couldn't cover them. So they could be a scary offense and I'm sure they see us as a game they can win since we haven't beat them in forever."
Geneva's defense has also suffered the wrath of two very good offenses, although the group's performance against Albright two weeks ago wasn't bad by comparison. The Lions did gain 418 yards in a 46-10 win over the GTs, but just last Saturday, Albright registered 675 yards in a 65-26 thrashing over Wilkes. Sophomore linebacker Dillon Goodell is one player to keep an eye on, as he leads the team with 21 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. Weaver says the talent Geneva brings to the table suggests a return to the standard outstanding defensive play traditionally expected from the Golden Tornadoes.
"They've had some bad breaks like turnovers and special teams errors that don't reflect as much on the defense," said Weaver. "They are replacing some key guys, but are committed to what they do and they do it well. They run to the ball, are athletic in the secondary, bring a bunch of pressure and can be as relentless and play as hard as anyone in the conference. I'm sure when the balance of the season plays out, they will end up being one of the better defenses (in the PAC)."
Going into a road night game after a tough defeat could present a challenge for the Bison as they try to regroup. But Weaver believes after watching the films from the W&J game and seeing what the Bison are capable of doing on the field against quality opponents will give them the idea for what needs done going forward.
"The biggest positive from last week was when we looked at the film Sunday and talked with the staff and players, we knew we could have won that game," said Weaver. "We haven't been able to say that against W&J. We didn't deserve to win because of our mistakes, but we executed as well as they did for long stretches of the game. Now we know if we can do that consistently and learn to take care of the little things, we can beat anyone."