The Bethel College football team got win no. 8 Saturday, overcoming a slow start to bury University of Saint Mary 48-3 in KCAC play at Thresher Stadium.
Bethel is 8-2 overall, 7-2 in KCAC play, and has its first eight-win season since winning a share of the conference title back in 2007.
Bethel’s 99 points in consecutive games is the most in the time NAIA records have been available since 2004.
Saint Mary falls to 0-10, 0-9 in KCAC play.
“We’re in a really good spot,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “We have a good group of kids and a good group of coaches. I’m excited about this year. I’m excited about the transformation from last year to this year. It’s just a good time to be here.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Bethel outscored the Spires 27-3, aided by a blocked punt. C.J. Irwin hit a 26-yard field goal as time expired.
Bethel added a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and one more in the fourth.
Senior Bruce Rosario capped off the senior day celebrations by recovering a fumble short of the goal line with 1:49 to play.
“It was great,” Rosario said. “I guess I saw the opportunity. I saw the ball getting knocked out, so I’d better go get it. I did what I did for my team. They definitely were applying pressure, but I kept hearing my coaches saying, ‘Make a play, make a stop. Make a play, make a stop.’ I just listened to them. I told my teammates to make a play, and we did.”
The defense held the Spires to 168 yards total offense, while Bethel racked up 526 yards.
“The momentum was going away from us a little bit, but we heard the coaches yelling at us to get our heads back in it,” Rosario said.
Zach Esau hit just three of six passes for 139 yards, but one was a 72-yard strike to Brayden Francis for a touchdown and the other was a 50-yard pass to Tanner Galliart for a score. Esau also rushed for 41 yards and a score.
“We had really good protection from the offensive line,” Esau said. “I just let the receivers go get it. All the credit to them. It makes my job easy when I have all those guys in front of me and Brayden and Tanner catching it.”
Tylor Wooten rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown. Mason Murray added 106 yards rushing with a touchdown. Camryn Harrison was held to 22 yards on five carries, but scored twice. The Threshers used nine different ball carriers.
“They are all so explosive that it doesn’t matter who is in the game,” Esau said. “I just get them the ball and let them do their magic.”
“We run the option and it’s the quarterback who decides those things,” Terry Harrison said. “We don’t know who is going to get the ball. It’s dictated about how the game is going. It helps that they are unselfish and support each other.”
USM freshman Troy Temmink hit 17 of 40 passes for 128 yards. Fred Daughtry had six catches for 71 yards. Matthew Graham had 28 rushes for 70 yards.
“Eight wins means a lot coming from my freshman year, when we won just three game,” Esau said. “It’s a credit to the amount of work we’ve put in and the commitment from this team.”
Bethel travels to Salina at 1 p.m. Saturday to face third-ranked (NAIA) Kansas Wesleyan. The Coyotes remained unbeaten with a 38-13 win over no. 23 Sterling. The Coyotes wrapped up the conference title with the win and a likely NAIA playoff berth. Bethel would have to win the game and rise up into the top 10 in the NAIA poll to have a shot at a playoff berth.
Bethel took a 13-0 lead against KWU last season before falling 49-19.
“We’re going to have to prepare this week and be ready for them,” Rosario said. “We’re going to have to be ready for whatever they throw at us. Preparation is what we do. That’s what they are about.”
“You don’t want to be at spot where you’re not excited about those games,” Terry Harrison said. “They are the best team in the conference and one of the top teams in the country. That’s a huge challenge and a great opportunity for us. We’ll be the odd man out (of the playoffs), which is crazy. We lost two games by 12 points — one by four and one by eight. We were receiving votes after we won three in a row. Then we stopped receiving votes. All we can do it get ready to play.”
2q. B Esau 1-yd. run (Francis kick) 14:40
2q. B Harrison 3-yd. run (Demond kick) 11:52
2q. B Harrison 7-yd. run (kick failed) 9:13
2q. B Murray 42-yd. run (Demond kick) 2:22
2q. SM Irwin 26-yd. field goal :00
3q. B Francis 71-yd. pass from Esau (Demond kick) 6:51
3q. B Wooden 20-yd. run (Demond kick) 2:16
4q. B Galliart 50-yd. pass from Esau (Demond kick) 11:36
Time of poss.;32:06;21:07
RUSHING — Saint Mary: Graham 28-70, Gudka 1-4, Temmink 5-(-34). Bethel: Wooden 10-148, Murray 4-106, Esau 11-41, Isley 4-34, Scurry 8-31, Harrison 5-22, Green 2-4, Street 1-1, Juarez 1-0.
PASSING — Saint Mary: Temmink 17-40-0, 128 yards. Bethel: Esau 3-5-0, 139 yards; Shelton 0-1-0, 0 yards.
RECEIVING — Saint Mary: Daugherty 6-71, Barnhart 4-25, Gudka 4-20, Dahn 2-14, Mettler 1-(-2). Bethel: Francis 1-71, Galliart 2-68.
Missed field goals — SM: Irwin 55 (WR).