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University for the Deaf Making Noise in College Football

Nation’s Only University for the Deaf Making Noise in College Football

By David Elfin, CBS-DC 11/5/2013
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Back in the 1970s when NFL rosters were smaller, Redskins coach George Allen used to exhort his players before kickoff with the impassioned motto, “47 men together can’t lose.”

Add seven men and that could be the slogan at this season at Gallaudet. The Bison are 8-0 and can clinch the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference title and their first Division III postseason berth by beating 2-6 Anna Maria at home on Saturday. Although at Gallaudet, the world’s only university for the deaf and hard of hearing, Allen’s words would be delivered in American Sign Language.

“We only have 54 guys,” said Chuck Goldstein, Gallaudet’s fourth-year coach, who says his best player is 5-foot-11, 170-pound Nick Elstad, who has played safety, running back and quarterback, returned kicks, covered them and held for them over the last two years. “That’s crazy. When I coached at Salisbury, we had 160 kids. I didn’t even know some of the kids on the other side of the ball. Having only 54 kids, makes us tighter than any other team, but we have to practice differently.”

The Bison only wear shoulder pads on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and even then, they don’t take full contact. Apparently, that’s not a problem on Florida Avenue where magic is happening this fall.

After overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit last Saturday, Gallaudet needed freshman Chris Papacek to block lowly Becker’s game-winning field goal try and senior Ryan Bonheyo to scoop up the ball and race 79 yards for the 40-34 victory that preserved the perfect season.

“At the beginning of the season, we could see we had plenty of talent and we had experienced leaders,” Bonheyo, a co-captain and running back who leads the Bison with nine touchdowns, said through an interpreter. “We had come up short the previous three years [while going 5-5, 5-5 and 7-2]. We’d never win the close games. This year we’re winning the close games [four of the last five by no more than eight points]. When we came to Gallaudet, our class knew we could do something special before we graduated. It’s finally showing.”

That’s for sure. The Bison average a whopping 326.6 rushing yards (to just 51 passing) while using an offense modeled after the triple option that Paul Johnson installed at Navy a decade ago.

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