COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – A historic defensive performance was more than enough to overcome any opening-day jitters the Ursinus College football team might have had on Saturday as the Bears rode a dominant second half to a 22-10 victory over Bethany (W.V.) on Patterson Field.
Ursinus piled up nine sacks, matching the single-game program record set during the 2016 season finale against Dickinson, and limited the Bison to just 260 yards of total offense – much of which came in the latter stages of the contest with the result already secure.
Marcus Weathers had three sacks among 4.5 tackles for loss to headline the defensive effort, while Darren Sipf added two sacks and four tackles for loss. Jack Spingler (1.5 sacks), Mike Reilly (1), Ian Johnson (1), and Noah Thomas (0.5) all got in on the action for the Bears, who had 18 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Jacob McCain produced 2.5 tackles for loss and tied for the team lead with nine stops overall. He also registered his fifth career interception.
The first half ended with more turnovers (7) than points (5), and ended with Ursinus trailing by a bizarre count of 3-2. Senior quarterback Thomas Garlick threw three interceptions in the first two periods, and the Bears lost two more fumbles in addition to a turnover on downs, but the defense was there to save the day time and again.
Weathers and Thomas brought down Bethany quarterback Carlin Bason on a fourth down play from the Bears' 36 early in the first quarter, and Weathers short-circuited another promising drive by the visitors with another sack on fourth down.
Ursinus finally broke the deadlock 35 seconds into the second quarter, when Spingler sacked Bason in the end zone for a safety.
The Bears, however, were unable to capitalize and the Bison grabbed the lead on a short field goal in the final minute of the second quarter following a Garlick sack-fumble.
The offense came to life in the second half, scoring touchdowns on each of its first two drives to seize control of the game. Garlick hit senior Stacey Gardner – a converted running back – over the middle for a 22-yard score to cap a 5-play, 56-yard drive and give the home side the lead for good.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Bears went back to work and again traversed 56 yards to pay dirt, this time on 10 plays. Samuel Ragland picked up a crucial 3rd-and-7 with an 8-yard run to keep the march alive and Garlick capped it with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Matt Gallagher, who stretched out for the right corner of the end zone and just managed to cross the plane to make it 16-3.
McCain's interception midway through the fourth quarter set up a 29-yard touchdown run from Kyle Wiggins, who bounced it to the outside and ran mostly untouched down the right side for his third career rushing score.
Bethany completed a 6-play, 74-yard scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dom Salinetro to Abe Lyles with 1:39 remaining.
Ragland was his typical electrifying self, picking up 156 yards on 21 carries and adding three receptions for 21 yards. Wiggins nearly made it a pair of 100-yard days for the Bears' backfield, totaling 94 yards on eight totes.
Garlick finished 13-of-31 for 183 yards with two touchdowns and four picks, though one of those was on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
Freshman Dakota Wherrity made both of his extra-point attempts in his collegiate debut.
Ursinus limited the Bison to just 91 rushing yards and an average of just 1.9 yards per attempt. Reilly and McCain each finished with nine tackles, while Weathers, Sipf, and Johnson tallied seven apiece. Shane Jones had a pair of pass break-ups in the secondary.
The Bears open up Centennial Conference play on the road at Gettysburg next Saturday.