BETHANY, W.V. – The Ursinus College football team moved the ball well during Saturday afternoon's season opener at Bethany (W.V.), but seven turnovers – one of which resulted in a touchdown – doomed the Bears to a 23-13 setback. The visitors outgained the Bison by nearly 100 yards on the day, but Bethany picked off five passes and recovered a pair of fumbles to keep Ursinus chasing until the final whistle.
Freshman quarterback Thomas Garlick racked up 302 yards – a school record for a player in his collegiate debut – on 22-of-42 passing, including an 85-yard strike to junior Carmen Fortino that pulled the Bears to within 16-13 with 13:25 to play. Two more miscues prevented Ursinus from getting over the hump, however, and Bethany quarterback Chase Kinemond's 12-yard dash to the end zone with 2:52 remaining sealed the Bears' fate.
Fortino hauled in seven receptions for a career-high 161 yards, the most by an Ursinus player since Darius Jones' school-record 263-yard effort during the 2014 season. Freshman Stacey Gardner turned in an impressive debut, rolling up a game-high 105 yards on 17 carries and adding three catches for 22 yards.
The Bear defense more than held its own against a Bethany squad led by senior running back Jalen Holmes, who collected a school-record 1,353 yards a season ago. The star tailback managed only 85 on 28 carries against Ursinus, though he did find paydirt on a 4-yard burst to open the scoring midway through the opening frame. Sophomore defensive tackle Charles Anderson and junior safety Heath Hidlay led the Bears with 12 tackles apiece, with three of Anderson's resulting in a loss. Senior tackle Zachary Tharp had a sack, forced a fumble, and tallied 2.5 tackles for loss, and freshman defensive back Mitchell Bradford registered an interception in his first collegiate action.
After Donovan Hayden scooped up a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, Bethany had gone ahead 13-0 with 6:39 left in the second quarter. The Bears roared right back, Garlick hitting junior Shawn Hackett for 24 yards on first down before hooking up with sophomore Asa Manley three plays later on a 29-yard scoring strike, pulling Ursinus to within 13-7 just 76 seconds later.
A 37-yard field goal with 0.6 seconds on the clock sent the Bison into halftime with a 16-7 edge. The teams traded empty possessions – two of them ending on Ursinus interceptions – until Garlick and Fortino connected on an 85-yard touchdown, the Bears' longest scoring pass since Chris Curran and Darius Jones combined on a 93-yard bomb against Susquehanna in 2012.
Ursinus had a golden opportunity to take the lead after Bradford's pick gave them the ball on their own 37. A pair of third-down conversions moved the chains down to the Bethany 20, but a fumbled handoff gave the ball right back. After forcing a three-and-out, the Bears had possession on the hosts' 39, but Garlick's pass was intercepted by George Reid. Bethany converted three third downs on a 14-play, 63-yard march that culminated in Kinemond's 12-yard sprint.
Hayden produced two of the Bison's five sacks, and Daulton Freeman tacked on a school-record three interceptions.
Hackett finished with four catches for 52 yards for Ursinus, which got three receptions covering 49 yards from Manley. Senior Nicholas Ford was 1-for-2 on extra points.
Senior linebacker Timothy Rafter had seven tackles and blocked an extra point.
Ursinus welcomes Gettysburg to Patterson Field for its Centennial Conference opener next Saturday, September 10. Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m.