Fauber: Gallaudet provides great story

There are feel-good stories everywhere in the sporting world, and there has been one story that has somewhat flown under the radar in college football up until the last week or so.

Do you remember the Gallaudet University Bison, the football team that spoiled the debut of new Shenandoah University head coach Scott Yoder back on Sept. 7? The Bison jumped on the Hornets early in that season opener, quickly racing out to a 14-0 lead before Shenandoah could barely bat an eye. Gallaudet ended up winning that game 31-20, and the Bison have been marching towards an historic season ever since.

I had no idea at the time, but when I watched the Bison run their triple-option offense to near-flawless perfection and hold Shenandoah to just 57 yards rushing, I was witnessing the beginning of something extraordinary.

Gallaudet won its first nine games of the season, steadily churning out 30 points per contest and making a bid for the first undefeated season in the program’s history. Gallaudet’s quest for a perfect 10-0 record evaporated with a 7-6 loss to Maritime (N.Y.) in the regular-season finale on Nov. 16, but that did nothing to lessen the fact that the Bison had certainly achieved something special this season.

With a 35-7 win over Anna Maria (Mass.) two weeks ago, Gallaudet secured the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championship, the first conference title for the program. The Bison also qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time ever.

On a bit of a side note, Gallaudet may also be on its way to sending its first football player on to the NFL, as 6-foot-6, 292-pound defensive end Adham Talaat (38 tackles, five sacks) has been drawing interest from professional scouts all season long.

Gallaudet’s season is all the more spectacular when you understand its background.

Gallaudet, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing that is located in Washington, D.C., has never been known for having a powerhouse football program. The Bison have an all-time winning percentage well below .500, and the annual budget for the program tops out at just $131,000. The roster consists of just 54 players. Gallaudet — which turns 150 years old next spring — had never had a football team advance to the NCAA playoffs until this year, and the Bison were so uncompetitive against fellow Division III competition in the past that the program was demoted to club status from 1995 to 2007. In fact, Gallaudet’s biggest contribution to football came with the creation of the huddle way back in 1894.

But things have quickly begun to change for Gallaudet under head coach Chuck Goldstein.

It’s truly remarkable to watch the Bison engineer their triple-option offense. The triple-option alone is a fun offense to watch when it’s run correctly, and Gallaudet runs it about as well as anyone.

The Bison are averaging 316.7 rushing yards per game this season, the fourth-highest total in Division III. And they do it using no verbal communication on the field.

All signals made by quarterback Todd Bonheyo are done using American Sign Language. There is no snap count — Gallaudet stopped using the big drum that had been used to time the snap count after opposing defenses began to figure out the cadence. Instead, the Bison rely on timing and gestures. The silent efficiency of which the Bison run their offense is impressive.

The Bison now have a chance to continue their historic season in the first round of the playoffs today against Hobart College (N.Y.) — Yoder’s alma mater. It remains to be seen how Gallaudet will fare against tougher competition, as the Bison haven’t played a team ranked in the top 25 all season long.

But you can be sure that I will be rooting for Gallaudet this postseason. Who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com