MCPHERSON, Kan. - Limiting opponents to 142 passing yards per game this season, the Threshers' pass defense is actually the strongest in the entire NAIA in terms of that statistic. Unfortunately, Bethel's struggles with the rush defense, special teams, and offensive productivity continued Saturday night when they visited McPherson College. A win would have tied the all-time series against the Bulldogs at 46-46, but victory was not in the cards for Bethel. Falling quickly to 10-0, Bethel could not keep up with McPherson's momentum, as the game resulted in a 48-14 loss for Bethel.
Bethel's opening drive of the game resulted in a three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, the Bulldogs broke through the line and blocked the punt, and recovered the football in the endzone for the game's opening touchdown. The following drive began with a fumble from Tyshawn Simon (JR/El Paso, Texas), which McPherson recovered and turned into a field goal. Bethel was looking at a 10-0 deficit with 12:58 left in the first quarter.
The costly turnovers were limited from there, but the damage had been done. McPherson carried this momentum to two more touchdowns in the first quarter, one each through the air and on the ground. The Threshers now had a 24-0 scoring deficit to surmount.
After McPherson tacked on another touchdown in the second quarter to make the score 31-0, Bethel finally found some success. After a great 53 yard punt by Brett Mathis (SR/Long Beach, Calif.) (longest of his career) pinned the Bulldogs on their own five yard line, the Thresher defense forced a three-and-out and Bethel assumed possession of the ball on the McPherson 40. Zach Esau (FR/Hesston, Kan.) found Bronson Hill (SO/Junction City, Kan.) two straight times for a total of 32 yards, bringing the Threshers a 1st and 10 from the 11 yard line. A four yard carry by Simon brought up second down, and Esau used his own legs to punch it in to the endzone on the next play. Bethel now trailed 31-7.
On the ensuing drive for McPherson, Jordan Bell (JR/Wichita, Kan.) hustled on a long-run by McPherson quarterback Ed Crouch and forced a fumble on the attempted tackle. Bell was then able to also recover the fumble, and gave Bethel back the ball. The Threshers brought out 235 pound half-back Isaiah Smith (SR/Kansas City, Kan.), who bruised through tackles and had three carries for 15 yards on the drive. Carries by Montero Dubose and Kobe Pickens (FR/Ardmore, Okla.) helped get the ball to the McPherson 2, and Tyshawn Simon eventually was able to punch it in for another touchdown. Bethel went into halftime now only down 31-14.
Bethel limited the scoring output by McPherson to 14 points in the second half, but could not continue with their own second-quarter magic. They ultimately fell to McPherson 48-14.
"This was a tough loss for the team. We cannot come out flat," stated Head Coach Morris Lolar. "We have to get back to the fundamentals of the game, come back together as a team, and fix the silly mistakes. It starts with Ottawa next week."
Quarterback Zach Esau went 9/19 for 84 yards in the game, with two interceptions and one rushing touchdown. Tyshawn Simon led the ground game with 17 attempts for 43 yards and one touchdown, while Isaiah Smith contributed six carries for 24 yards. Bronson Hill led the receivers with four receptions for 54 yards.
On the defensive side, Jariah Booker (SR/Oroville, Calif.) led the Threshers with 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Reigning KCAC Defensive Player of the Week Reggie Young (JR/Pasadena, Calif.) had 11 tackles, while Keondre Churchwell (JR/Phoenix, Ariz.) had nine, including one sack.
Gary Jolivet (JR/Arlington, Texas) turned in one punt return for 24 yards, and is averaging 12.2 yards per return (11th in the NAIA).
Bethel moves to 0-4 on the season, and will visit Ottawa University on October 7th. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 1:00 PM.