After scoring a touchdown with 54 seconds to play, the Bethany College football team had a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game, but it was broken up by Washington & Jefferson and the Presidents would hang on for a 28-26 win over the visiting Bison Saturday night.
The Bison (0-4, 0-2) were forced to come from behind after building a big halftime lead. Bethany continued its season-long trend of scoring on its opening drive of the game. Sophomore RB Phil Acrie (Verona, Pa./Linsly-W.Va.) broke off a 20-yard run and junior WR Cam Cooper (Hurricane, W.Va.) caught an 18-yard pass to ignite the 10-play, 58-yard march to start the contest. The Bison were not able to find the end zone, but still went in front 3-0 on a 29-yard field goal by freshman kicker Justin Evans (Niles, Ohio/Niles McKinley).
The Presidents (4-1, 3-0) had an immediate response, going 72 yards in eight plays and taking a 7-3 lead on a three-yard scamper by quarterback Matt Bliss. Neither team scored on its second possession, but Bethany went back on top just before the end of the first quarter. A 17-yard punt return by senior Ed Holmes (Virginia Beach, Va./Landtown) gave BC possession inside W&J territory. Junior QB Matt Grimard then went 3-for-3 for 41 yards, finishing with a 16-yard touchdown strike to senior WR Johnathan Foster (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) and the Bison led 10-7.
W&J's next drive reached the Bison 29, but an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to the Green and White. Bethany's offense continued rolling by using 12 plays to march 71 yards for another touchdown. The Bison had three third down conversions on the drive, which ended on a 19-yard scoring run by Acrie that extended the BC advantage to 17-7.
Bethany's defense had another stop to set up the final score of the half. W&J went for it on a fourth-and-one on their own 48 and was stuffed. The Bison then moved into scoring territory thanks to a big 14-yard run on a third-and-six by Acrie. When the drive was halted, Evans trotted back on the field and drove a 39-yard field goal through the uprights. W&J's last gasp before the half ended when a 53-yard field goal attempt was short and Bethany carried a 20-7 lead into the intermission.
The third quarter was a complete role reversal from the first half. W&J took the second half kickoff and moved 64 yards in nine plays to score on a four-yard run by Tim McNerney. After BC was forced to punt, the Presidents needed just six plays to motor 67 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bliss to Alex Baroffio, followed by the extra point, had W&J in front 21-20.
The Presidents missed a chance to add on to their lead late in the third quarter when a 28-yard field goal sailed wide right. Bethany then put together its best drive of the second half, but had it stall at the W&J 48. Bethany gambled with a fake punt, but Acrie was stopped a yard short of the first down and the ball turned back over to the home team.
The Bison forced a Presidents' punt, but three plays later, W&J's Ian Hennessy stepped in front of a Grimard aerial and returned the interception 24 yard for a touchdown that extended the Presidents' lead to 28-20 with 11:45 to play.
Bethany's final chance began with three minutes left and the Green and White on their own 17. But three quick strikes by Grimard to junior WR Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) immediately moved the Bison into W&J territory. With 54 seconds left, Grimard lofted a pass to the right corner of the end zone that freshman WR Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) came down with for a 21-yard TD reception that brought BC within two at 28-26.
Needing the two-point conversion to tie, Grimard's pass to Foster was broken up by the Presidents to keep Bethany down by a pair. The Bison's final hopes were extinguished when W&J recovered the onside kick and managed to run out the final 50 seconds to preserve their two-point win. In the longest running football series in the PAC, this was the closest game between the rivals, who have now played 89 times, since 1961 when Bethany nipped W&J 14-12.
The final numbers were as close as the score, as W&J held a small 384-369 advantage in total yards and 22-21 margin in first downs. With his 234 passing yards in the contest, Grimard moved past Tracey Finchum into third place on the all-time list at Bethany and now has 4,658 yards through the air. His top target was Foster with seven receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. Acrie enjoyed the biggest day of his young career with 18 carries for 94 yards and a score, as well as two receptions for another 30 yards.
For the Bethany defense, senior linebacker Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Ohio/Jackson) made a season-high 12 tackles, while freshman linebacker Tyler Vincent (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) had nine stops, including two for loss, and sophomore linebacker Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W.Va.) and freshman defensive back Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglas) had seven hits apiece.
Saturday's game completed a three-game road swing for the Bison, who return home next Saturday for Homecoming. Bethany will host Geneva (1-3, 1-1), who knocked off four-time defending PAC champion Thomas More 50-48 in four overtimes Saturday. Kickoff at Bison Stadium is set for 2 p.m.