BV's rookie quarterback Hawkins throws for 321 yards, three T.D.'s in promising opener
Bethel University, utilizing an effective mix between the pass and run, outlasted Buena Vista University here Saturday in a game of big plays, beating the Beavers 38-21 on a hot day at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium.
The Beavers got a strong performance from their offense, particularly rookie quarterback Chris Hawkins, veteran wideout Jesse Schmidt and sophomore receiver Devin Stewart.
Hawkins completed 21 of 39 passes for 328 yards and three long scoring passes, including a 70-yarder to Schmidt on BVU's second possession and 34- and 44-yard touchdown strikes to Stewart.
Bethel countered with its rushing attack and a defense that returned a number of starters from last year's stellar unit. The Royals outrushed BVU 328-82, with pre-season All-American tailback Phil Portman running 27 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the loss, BVU coach Steve Osterberger was encouraged by his young team's play, including a second-half comeback that gave BVU a 21-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.
"Overall, we feel very good about the way we played," Osterberger said Sunday afternoon. "We still need to run the ball better on offense, but when your quarterback throws for 321 yards in his first game as a starter, you've got to be impressed with that."
Last year's Iowa Conference Coach of the Year returned just two starters on defense, and the Beavers were worn down by a big, physical Bethel offensive line Saturday.
"Overall, we also saw some good things from the defense, especially considering we were starting nine new guys," the coach said. "You figure the new guys had seen just a handful of snaps last season. They got 60 or 70 Saturday, and they are just going to get better with experience."
Two of Bethel's touchdowns were the result of short fields caused by BVU turnovers, the coach added.
"We put the defense in a tough position a couple of times," Osterberger said. "We have a lot to work on, but if we progress, we'll compete well in our conference this season."
The Beavers opened the scoring five minutes into the game on a 70-yard scoring pass from Hawkins to All-Iowa Conference receiver Jesse Schmidt.
Both teams stalled on their opening drives, with the Beavers getting the ball at their own 30 after holding Bethel to one first down.
On first down from the 30, Schmidt sprinted past the Bethel secondary and Hawkins lofted the ball 50-plus yards, hitting Schmidt in stride for a 70 yard scoring strike. Chris Kemmerer made it 7-0.
"I thought our offensive line did a good job of protecting Chris on a very hot day," Osterberger said.
Bethel's Porta ran 77-yards to the BVU 2 on first down after the ensuing BVU kick. One play later, fullback Steve Moline dove over for the score, but BVU's Cody Pierce blocked the point-after kick.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Hawkins was sacked, and fumbled with the Royals recovering at the BVU 40.
Bethel quarterback Ben Wetzell opened the drive with a 35-yard pass play, and four plays later, snuck into the end zone. The PAT pass failed, giving Bethel a 12-7 lead.
Later in the quarter, BVU's pre-season All-American punter Chris Kemmerer got a 54-yarder off, pinning Bethel back at its own one. The Royals went three and out and BVU took over at the Bethel 24 after a 15-yard punt by John Buyse.
Poised to take the lead, BVU's Chad Pearson fumbled, with the Royals recovering at their own 24. Using a good mixture of the pass and run, Bethel used just over two minutes to drive to the BVU 22. From that point, Wetzell hit wide out Kyle Lee on a 22-yard scoring pass. The two-point conversion gave Bethel a 20-7 lead.
With four minutes left in the half, BVU started at its own 26, with Hawkins completing a 12-yarder to Stewart and a 15-yarder to Schmidt. On first down from the Bethel 44, Hawkins connected with Stewart on another long scoring pass. Kemmerer's kick made it 20-14, which held up until halftime.
"We strive for balance in our offense," added Osterberger. "But you go to what's working, and for us, that was the passing game."
BVU's defense came up big in the third quarter, as Bethel's deepest penetration was to its own 46. On offense, Buena Vista drove to the Bethel 11 before relinquishing the ball on downs.
Winning the battle of third-quarter field position, BVU took over at the Bethel 46 with eight minutes left in the frame. Five plays later, Hawkins tossed a 34-yard scoring pass to Stewart, a sophomore out of Laurens-Marathon High. Kemmerer's kick gave BVU a 21-20 lead with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
"It was good to see our guys come back after a two-touchdown deficit," Osterberger said. "I thought we played outstanding defense in that third quarter."
Late in the third quarter, the Beavers drove from midfield to the Bethel 22, where Hawkins fumbling away possession after being sacked. After three quarters, the Beavers led 21-20.
"We scored 21 points and were inside their 30 yard line five or six times without scoring," Osterberger added. "Another area I expect us to improve in is converting our drives when we get close."
Early in the fourth quarter, Bethel moved to the BVU 40 but was forced to punt. The kick pinned the Beavers back to their 1-yard line.
Bethel's Brandon Carr intercepted Hawkins and returned it to the BVU 22 on a third and six play from the BV five. A face mask penalty was tacked on with Bethel starting at the BVU 11. After two short gains, Porta ran in from four yards out. Wetzell failed on the PAT run, but the Royals led 26-21 with 10:49 left.
Bethel's physical personnel up front took over the game the remainder of the way. Porta scored on six-yard sweep with 5:57 left for a 32-21 advantage.
BVU moved to the Bethel 40, but was stopped on downs at its own 41. Bethel iced it with a six-play, 41-yard drive capped by a two-yard run by Josh Holm.
Schmidt finished with seven catches for 152 yards while Stewart caught six passes for 122 yards. BVU's Chad Pearson rushed 29 times for 66 yards. Bethel quarterback Wetzell competed 14 of 25 passes for 135 yards.
BVU is off next Saturday, then opens its conference schedule with a home game Sept. 17 against Loras College. Loras opened its season Saturday with a 48-3 win over Concordia College of Illinois.