Small college football: For Cal’s Stevens, it’s in the sack

September 26, 2013
California University of Pennsylvania defensive star B.J. Stevens, left, has five sacks in three games this season for the Vulcans. - Courtesy Cal U.

Take a look at the bio for B.J. Stevens, and a most impressive number jumps out: 14 1/2.

That’s the number of quarterback sacks the 6-1, 240-pound senior had for California University’s football team last season.

Here’s another number to consider: 16 1/2.

That’s the pace Stevens is on this season, which would give him 31 over two seasons. It also gets him noticed by NFL scouts.

“I try not to set personal goals,” he said. “But I would like to beat my record for sacks last year.”

Stevens has led a Cal defense that helped produce three straight victories to start the season and will look for its fourth when the Vulcans travel to Indiana for a crucial PSAC West Division game Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

The two teams have identical records of 1-0 in the conference and 3-0 overall for this Coal Bowl game.

Stevens is sure to be a topic of discussion by the IUP coaches, and Cal players are motivated to knock off the preseason No. 1 pick.

“Every year, they are our rival,” Stevens said. “It’s a fast, physical team. They have all downhill runners. It’s all about being prepared.”

That’s why Stevens is such a dynamic piece to the Cal defense. He can play defensive end or linebacker. Stevens plays end on the left side against teams that run and pass, then moves to linebacker if the opponent is more of a pass-dominated offense. Stevens had a game-high 11 tackles and two forced fumbles in Cal’s 20-7 win over Edinboro, and 3 1/2 sacks in the first half of a 45-10 win over Kutztown in Week 2.

“Those were two of the best games of my career,” said Stevens. “We got back to a four-man front, and I rushed the passer a little more.”

IUP is coming off back-to-back shutout victories over struggling teams, 49-0 over Cheyney and 26-0 over Seton Hill, which is in its first season of PSAC play. De’Antwan Williams and Erik Finklea have combined for 408 yards and seven touchdowns and quarterback Mike Box has passed for 562 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions.

“They are more of a run, run, run play-action pass team,” Stevens said. “Last year, they had a runner in Harvey Tuck who was more physical. This year, they are more on the elusive side.”

Cal’s defense produced five turnovers against Edinboro and has nine on the season. Dewey McDonald returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown that locked up the Edinboro game.

“I think this is one of the best defenses I played on,” Stevens said. “They are all fast and physical.”

Thiel at Wash & Jeff

After surrendering a whopping 733 total yards in a loss to St. John Fisher two weeks ago, the defense at Washington & Jefferson needed a diversion from the criticism.

Tailback Dion Wiegand gave it to the Presidents one week later by having a career game in a 40-19 win over Grove City. Wiegand rushed for 172 yards and scored five touchdowns. The talk about how poor the defense played against SJF turned to how well Wiegand played against the Wolverines.

“We knew St. John Fisher would be the hardest game we had,” Wiegand said. “They were all good. Now, I feel we’re starting to roll. We’re going in the right direction.”

The Presidents will see if that’s so when they entertain Thiel in the home opener at Cameron Stadium (2 p.m., Homecoming). W&J is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference. Thiel is 0-3 and 0-1.

Wiegand’s big game came at the right time because quarterback Matt Bliss has a bruised knee. Bliss tried to play but was removed after two series. Wiegand took over and had three TD runs of one yard, one from two and another from 76, the longest TD run since 2001 when Joey Nichols had a 76-yarder against Westminster. The five touchdowns were the most by a W&J back since Ryan Mendel had five against Grove City in 2006.

“You never can tell you’re going to have that type of game,” Wiegand said. “Sometimes, you can tell by watching film that there are opportunities if you line up right. But sometimes, you can be going against the best defense and still get 200 yards. We just kept using our running plays, and the offensive line blew people off the ball.”

Waynesburg at Thomas More

It’s only the third week of the season, but Waynesburg and Thomas More will be involved in a game that could determine the PAC champion at season’s end. At the very least, it will determine which teams stays at the top of the conference standings.

The Yellow Jackets, who have won 13 of their last 14 games, come in with a 3-0 overall record and 1-0 in the conference after a 23-6 victory over Saint Vincent last week.

The Saints are 2-0 and 1-0 in the conference after a 31-0 shutout of Westminster last week.

The game shapes up as a test of whether Waynesburg’s defense can stop the running of Thomas More’s Domonique Hayden or Thomas More’s secondary can corral quarterback Carter Hill. Hayden, who missed nearly all last season with a knee injury, leads the conference with a 167-yard per game average. Hill has completed 66 percent of his passes for 836 yards and leads the conference with eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

Thomas More has not allowed a point this season, thought the Saints have played one fewer game than most of the conference teams. They also lead the conference in rush defense.

Waynesburg’s end Brandon Fedorka leads the PAC with four quarterback sacks and seven tackles for losses and Bryan Gary is averaging 10 tackles per game from his safety position.

Waynesburg has won two of the five games of this series played in Crestview, Ky., and came away with a thrilling 14-10 win last year at home. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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