Nov. 16 – LATROBE, Pa. – The Bethany College football team sent its seniors off on a high note, as the Bison scored the most points they have seen since 2007, in a 56-35 victory over Saint Vincent College on Saturday afternoon. The team totaled 634 yards of offense to give Bethany its fourth conference victory of the year and end the season at .500 in the PAC.
Sophomore Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) had a career day for the Bison. He hauled in 12 catches for a career-best 267 yards and four touchdowns and also set two records on the day. Blinn surpassed Eric Walker’s, 2009, single-game mark for TD receptions with his four scores in the game. He also surpassed Denny Williams’ single-season receiving yards record (1,036) which has stood since 1980.
“Blinn has had a special season for us this year,” remarked first-year head coach Bill Garvey. “He has the ability to make plays happen anywhere on the field; whether it be a screen, double move, or just an ordinary route, teams always have to plan for his ability out there.”
The Bison got on the board first on the opening drive marching 85 yards on nine plays in just 3:46. Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut), completed five-of-six passes on the drive, including a 30-yard pass to Blinn, which set up the Bison on the Bearcat 12-yard line. Two plays later, Grimard found Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henry E. Lackey) on an 11-yard pitch and catch for the game’s first score.
After the Bearcats missed a 37-yard field goal on their first possession, the Bison marched right back down the field and scored again. Blinn and running back Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) accounted for all of the yards on the 80-yard drive. Hill accounted for 29 yards, with Blinn accruing the other 51 yards on the drive, including a six-yard TD that put Bethany up, 14-0.
With Saint Vincent driving early in the second quarter, the Bison defense came up with a big play. With the Bearcats facing a fourth and one from the Bethany 23, junior captain Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W. Va./Martinsburg) recovered a fumble to give the Bison back the ball, and the Bethany offense wasted little time.
It took just three plays for the Bison to notch their next score as Grimard and Blinn hooked up on a 66-yard completion to give Bethany the 20-0 lead. It was the second of the day for the tandem. On the ensuing Bearcat possession, a botched punt by Saint Vincent led to a safety for the Bison, and Bethany increased the lead to 22-0.
The Bison would add two more touchdowns in the first half; one, a 46-yard run from Hill, capped a four-play, 73-yard drive; and the other, a 10-yard strike from Grimard to Jennings gave Bethany a 35-6 lead, which they would take into the half.
“We talked about coming out of the gate strong all week,” remarked Garvey. “We really wanted to make sure that we made a statement in the first half and our guys were really ready to play out there.”
In the third quarter, the Bearcats notched the first score of the frame and converted a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 35-14. However, Blinn was ready to answer the call. On the ensuing kickoff, Blinn set up the Bison with great field position with a 24-yard return to the 40-yard line. A personal foul call on the Bearcats on the play moved Bethany down to the Saint Vincent 45-yard line and it took Bethany just one play, a 45-yard pass from Grimard to Blinn, to notch another score and push the lead to 42-14.
Saint Vincent would then score back-to-back touchdowns, including an 80-yard punt return for a score by Dan Wirkowski, to cut the Bison lead in half, 42-28.
On the next drive, Blinn found pay dirt again, catching a five-yard TD pass from Grimard for his fourth of the game to put Bethany up, 49-28. The touchdown hookup broke two single-game records on the same play.
Blinn busted the Bison single-game mark for receiving touchdowns, breaking Eric Walker’s record of three, set on September 12, 2009 at Kentucky Christian. The TD was also the sixth of the game for Grimard, which broke the single-game mark of five, shared by Derek Scavnicky (1991 against Duquense) and Milton Joyner (2007 at W&J).
In the waning minutes of the game, Bethany would add one more score as sophomore Jake Riddell (Hopewood, Pa./Laurel Highlands) hooked up on an 11-yard strike with freshman wideout Paul Jones (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) to make the score 56-28. It was the first touchdown in both the careers of Riddell and Jones. The touchdown was also the first Bison TD pass not thrown by Grimard in 39 games.
Saint Vincent would add one more score with 10 seconds to play in the contest, but the Bison would walk away with the victory, 56-35.
Offensively, Bethany couldn’t have asked for much more efficiency from its offense as the Bison scored a touchdown on 8 of their 13 possessions in the game, totaling 634 yards which included 203 on the ground and 416 through the air.
Hill and freshman Jaylen Holmes (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) split time in the backfield and controlled the ground game. Hill finished with 120 yards on 15 carries, while Holmes ran efficiently, totaling 62 yards on 14 rushes.
Grimard eclipsed the 400 yard mark for the third time this season, finishing the day with 416 yards passing in his final game as a Bison. The Bethany career leader in every major passing category, Grimard finished the year with a career-high, 3,100 yards passing and tied a career-high in touchdown passes with 23.
Blinn set a career-high in receiving yards, totaling 267 yards on the day, just 12 yards shy of the single-season record of 279 held by Taylor McNeil against Saint Vincent in 2008. He finished the year with 95 catches and 1,300 receiving yards to go along with eight TD receptions.
Jennings notched a multi-touchdown game for the third time this season, finishing the contest with five catches for 72 yards and two scores. He also finishes the season with eight touchdown receptions, which is tied for the team-lead with Blinn.
Defensively, the Bison were led by Aaron Frye (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) who totaled 7.5 tackles. Michael Howcott (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) totaled four tackles and two pass breakups while Nick Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) finished with 3.5 tackles in the contest.
The victory over the Bearcats pushed the Bison to .500 on the season in conference play and gave them four wins in the PAC, the most wins by the program since 2010 when the team went 4-3 in conference play. Bethany’s 56 points in the contest is also the highest point total scored by the Bison since the program dropped 66 on Saint Vincent on Sept. 15, 2007.
“I am really proud of what our team, and our senior class was able to accomplish this season,” remarked Coach Garvey. “It obviously wasn’t the record we were hoping to achieve, but this team faced a lot of adversity this season, and the heart that they showed was a real testament to their character.
“This senior class has battled through its ups and downs, and I would like to say to them, thank you for all that they have done for Bison football over the past four years.”