October 25, 2012

Bethany at Thiel Preview

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The Bethany football team will go out on the road for the final time in 2012, as the Bison journey to Greenville, Pa., Saturday to take on Thiel in a 1 p.m. match-up.

The season continued to be a maddening one for BC last week, as Bethany nearly rallied from a 17-point deficit, only to give up two late scores in a 45-28 loss at Westminster last week. After falling behind 31-14, two scores in the fourth quarter brought Bethany within three points at 31-28. But two long TD runs by the Titans put the game away and sent BC to their sixth loss of the season.

Junior quarterback Matt Grimard had a huge game, passing for 357 yards and two TDs and rushed for another 78 yards. His 435 total yards was the third-most in a game by a Bethany player. The Bethany defense, despite 12 tackles and an interception from senior linebacker Kyle Arrington, surrendered 396 rushing yards and the team's overall performance continued with a season-long trend, according to Bison head coach Tim Weaver.

"We're consistently inconsistent," said Weaver. "It's very frustrating, not just for the coaches, but for the players as well. We played as poorly in the first half offensively as we could. And then they couldn't stop us in the second half. Defensively, we forced three-and-outs, gave up a field goal, picked off a pass in the end zone and the only touchdown they did get was a pass we deflected and it fell on their chest. And the second half was a complete reversal on both sides of the ball.

"As we told the team, we would have loved to watch film on Sunday and see some great adjustment, but we didn't see that," said Weaver. "They ran the same plays we defended in the first half. Some of it ranged from bad angles to the ball, one really bad missed tackle and we lost run support once. But even with that, we got within three (points) with six (minutes) to go. It shows we have a team of good players who are competing hard and playing hard. There is no quit in the staff or the players and we're very proud to see that."

Bethany's defensive struggles continued against Westminster, but the real issues lie in containing big plays. Of the Titans' 567 yards, more than 365 of those came on seven plays. Injuries are also starting to take a toll on the Bison, who will only turn to younger players to fill those holes and not because the program is turning the page on this season.

"Looking at film from last week, we gave up 265 rushing yards on five plays and more than 100 pass yards on two plays," said Weaver. "If it was one thing to point at, it would be easy to change. If we were overmatched or just weren't good enough, we would just put in young guys and start building for next year, but that's not it.

"We are also, for the first time this year, dealing with legitimate injury issues on defense," said Weaver. "Every coach says that injuries don't matter, but at some point, it just does. But our responsibilities as coaches are to have the next guy ready and get them as many reps as possible to have them ready to go in a game."

The Bethany defense is hoping to right the ship some this week when they take on a Thiel team ranked last in the conference in scoring (12.9) and total yards (251.4). The Tomcats were off last week and in their last action, lost to Thomas More 28-16. Thiel trailed by just five with 3:42 to play in that game, but an interception killed their final drive and set up the Saints' clinching score.

Despite their struggles at times this season, Weaver says the unit still has potential problems for the Bison. Junior quarterback Andrew Smith is fourth in the league in passing efficiency and is completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,080 yards this season. Running back Josh Potter, who has rushed for 147 yards and two TDs, has caught the Bison staff's eye with his skills and tight end Berend Grube is the Tomcats' top receiver with 27 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

"Their offense is very much improved," said Weaver. "The quarterback has really matured, become more accurate and developed into a good player. They do things in the pass game that most won't by throwing curls and out cuts to the field. Thiel have a freshman running back they like who has a little explosion and have worked in more reps for him. They also have a big tight end they like to get the ball to and are bigger and more physical up front than Westminster.

"They have become more balanced and with our problems against the run, we have to commit to stop it," said Weaver. "When you make that commitment, you need to hold up against the pass, so Smith will be a legitimate challenge for us."

Another stiff challenge awaiting the Bison Saturday is a Thiel defense that ranks at the top of the conference in yards allowed (281.6) and second in scoring (17.0). Defensive end Tim Taylor, who had 10 tackles and 4.5 sacks in last year's 20-0 Bison win over the Tomcats, is having another outstanding season with a PAC-high 10.5 sacks and is second with 15 tackles for loss.

But Taylor is not a one-man crew. Linebacker Ethan Ludwig is among the top tacklers in the conference with 69 stops and fellow linebacker Jack Sidlinger is right behind him with 59 tackles. Weaver is also impressed with Taylor's line mates Kris Tursky (20 tackles, seven for loss) and Cody McClelland (4.5 sacks).

"Their defense is as good as anyone whose gone to the playoffs from our league the last three or four years," said Weaver. "The way the schedule has worked out this year in scouting other teams' offense, we've watched Thiel a bunch and they are very, very good. They've dominated every offense this year and the highest point total they've allowed is 28. That was to Thomas More and they had scoring drive of nine and 20 yards and only gained 180 for the game.

"Taylor is very good, but Tursky and McClelland are close to as good as him," said Weaver. "The rest of the line feeds off Taylor's energy and competitiveness. When you're that good up front, it makes everyone better. You have to keep more guys in protection and slide to him or put an extra hat on him, but it doesn't help if other guys are making plays."

While the frustration has mounted through the season, Weaver says the team still realizes how close it is to having far different results. He said he found out something from his team in Saturday's loss that he's pleased with and now just wants to work on eliminating the miscues that sent the Bison down the road to another defeat,

"I talked about it early in the season, but while we're losing, it's not hopeless," said Weaver. "We are very close every game. I wondered how we'd react if we got down and we answered that Saturday. We got a score, forced a turnover and scored again, but gave up two more big plays. We just need to learn from the specific mistakes we made and turn our attention forward to try to win the next game."
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