bc vs. marietta
0-0, 0-0 HCAC
0-0, 0-0 OAC
Don Drumm Stadium
Marietta, Ohio 1:30 p.m.
Bluffton hoping for right answers in 2002 lid lifter at Marietta SaturdaySeptember 3, 2002
Bluffton College will put a pre-season of preparation on display Saturday afternoon at Don Drumm Stadium on the campus of Marietta College as the Beavers kick off the 2002 season. And packed away among the uniforms and equipment for the long road trip will hopefully be the right answers that will lead to a successful beginning to the new campaign.
Bluffton has shown steady improvement in practice and had a positive scrimmage against Capital University last Saturday that has the Beavers eager to erase the memories of last season's 24-13 season opening loss to the Pioneers in Salzman Stadium.
Marietta is looking for a few answers, themselves. The Pioneers have quite a bit of talent coming back but are searching to find replacements at some key positions, including quarterback and running back. The returning starters, which number 18 in one pre-season publication but 16 in another, are hoping to improve on last season's 2-8 record, which was head coach Gene Epley's lowest win total since his first season in 1991.
"This is my 37th year of coaching football-and probably my most challenging year," said Epley at the Ohio Athletic Conference media day this summer. But Epley's early season schedule this year should help the 12th-year head coach iron things out, as the Pioneer play three of their first four games at home and can look forward to a bye week after facing Bluffton Saturday.
Things aren't any easier for Bluffton, which will line up with three new starters both on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. But it's safe to say the Beavers are further along at this point in 2002 than they were in 2001. BC started a different tailback in each of the first three games last year before settling on Jovan Johnson, who then rushed for 1,096 yards over the last eight games and earned first team All-Heartland Conference honors.
Johnson proved to be Bluffton's answer at running back, and other veterans like him stepped up to lead the Beavers to victories in four of their last six games to create a momentum surge that has carried over into the start of the 2002 season. And head coach Carlin Carpenter, how in his 24th season, has every intention of fueling that momentum with a solid performance Saturday.
In last season's loss to Marietta, the Pioneers jumped on top 10-0 before the Bluffton offense had taken their first snap. The Beavers came back to tie the score at 10-10 early in the second quarter, but Marietta regained the lead at 17-10 by halftime and didn't trail the rest of the way. BC held the possession of the football for seven minutes longer than Marietta, but three costly turnovers were too much to overcome.
Quarterback Brad Moore will also look for a bigger day than the one that started his junior season a year ago. Against the Pioneers last year he was held to 91 yards passing-his second-lowest output of the season. His 93 yards rushing led the team and was his best rushing day of the season, but it was pretty much all that Bluffton could muster as the Beavers were held under 300 yards in total offense-something that would happen just one other time all season.
Following the Marietta game Bluffton will return home to face Hiram College on Sept. 14 at 1:30 in Salzman Stadium.