COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The Ursinus College football team was itching to get back onto the field after a long preseason.
The Bears' debut was well worth the wait.
Sophomore Stacey Gardner rushed for a career-high 197 yards, classmate Thomas Garlick threw three touchdown passes – two of them to senior Carmen Fortino – and Ursinus controlled both sides of the ball on the way to a 35-13 rout of visiting Bethany (W.V.) in Saturday's season opener.
Building off a 37-14 demolition of Dickinson in last year's finale, the Bears put up 510 yards of offense – 269 on the ground and 241 through the air, and almost all of them before taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter – and limited the Bison to just 240 yards in avenging a 23-13 setback in West Virginia a season ago.
Behind an offensive line featuring two new starters in center James Marinelli and right tackle Brett Highland, Gardner churned up the Bethany defense for an average of 7.6 yards a pop. That eye-popping total included a 57-yard scamper that set up Gardner's own three-yard plunge into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, kick-starting a string of 21 unanswered points in the first five minutes of the stanza. Gardner, who posted the highest single-game rushing total by a Bear since 2006, was just three yards shy of becoming the sixth player in program history to rush for 200 yards in a game.
Garlick finished 16-of-24 for 241 yards and three touchdowns, his lone blemish a pick-six by Bethany's Collin Johnston just before halftime. The sophomore signal-caller also rushed 14 times for 53 yards.
Garlick's prime target, much like last year, was Fortino. The co-captain hauled in five passes for a game-high 116 yards – his fourth career 100-yard output – and a pair of scores that came just over two minutes apart as Ursinus opened up a 28-0 bulge.
After the teams traded punts to open the contest, Garlick and Gardner led the Bears on a 10-play, 64-yard march that culminated in a 10-yard strike to junior tight end Thomas Cardozo, who got free down the seam on a post pattern for his second career touchdown.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Gardner dashed all the way down to the 3-yard line on a 57-yard run, and finished off his own dirty work on the ensuing snap to give Ursinus a 14-0 lead. Two plays later, sophomore Jack Spingler stripped Bethany quarterback Chase Kinemond and senior Demarcus Henry was there to fall on the football at the Bison 27. Garlick's three-yard hook-up with Fortino stretched the margin to 21-0.
The Ursinus defense forced another three-and-out from Bethany, and Garlick's perfectly thrown pass found Fortino behind the secondary for a 57-yard bomb that delivered a 28-0 deluge with 10:06 to play in the second quarter.
Raekwon Wright got Bethany on the board with a 14-yard touchdown run, and Johnston's interception return made it 28-13 with 1:51 before half. That was as good as it got for the Bison, who did not manage another point.
A 1-yard touchdown run by freshman Samuel Ragland, the first of his career, capped the scoring with 3:33 to play in the third. Ragland finished with nine carries for 41 yards and the score.
Junior Asa Manley was a threat in the passing game, catching five balls for 70 yards.
Sophomore Jacob McCain was around the ball all afternoon for the Bears, picking up a team-high 11 tackles (1.5 TFL). Henry had eight tackles and the recovery, while senior Jamie Casseus broke up a pair of passes.
Non-conference play now in the rearview mirror, the football team kicks off its Centennial Conference slate at Gettysburg next Saturday.