Shortly after Bethune-Cookman’s historic 34-13 win over Florida International on Saturday night, Golden Panthers head coach Ron Turner told his team “we got beat by a better football team because they’re more of a team than we are.” Turner neglected to mention to his guys that BCU fielded a squad just as athletic as his, they were equal if not superior in overall team speed, and the Wildcats were much more physical at the point of attack than were his Panthers. In essence, Turner should have said Bethune-Cookman was simply the better football team; no qualifiers needed.
This is our house
The Wildcats set the tone for the night in the parking lot before kickoff. No, there was no pregame dust-up between the two sides; I am referring to the deluxe-size BCU tailgate taking place in the parking lot. South Florida alumni chapters put together a homecoming worthy tailgate that covered the East parking lot with an abundance of Maroon and Gold supporters. The eyeball test suggests the stands inside the stadium were filled with an equal number of BCU and FIU fans.
A collective echo of ooohhhhhhhhs rang loudly on the first play of regulation when backup running back and special teams ace Drexler Dixon leveled FIU return man De’Andre Jasper on the game’s opening kickoff. Jasper left the field under his own power but the tone was established; BCU was dead set on playing fast, playing aggressive, and they were up for the challenge of proving they could compete with any team in the nation regardless of classification. For the next 59 and half minutes, it was BCU from the NCAA’s lower tiered Division One Football Championship Subdivision who dominated play.
The Wildcats kept the momentum rolling on their first offensive possession needing only 4 plays to drive 91 yards. Junior running back Anthony Jordan capped the drive with a 58 yard TD scamper and the Wildcats never looked back.
Around the same time as Jordan’s opening score, the slightly late arriving Marching Wildcats found their seats and begin to fill Alfonso Field with that rich, dark sound for which they have become known and FIU Stadium was unofficially rebranded as “The Wildcat Den” for the next 3 hours.
Big men getting it done
Sports cliché number #117 states games are won and loss in the trenches and Saturday’s performance did nothing to dissuade this popular perception. The Wildcat offensive line paved the way for three Wildcat rushers to accumulate at least 60 yards each on the ground and a team average of 6.0 yards per attempt. My calculator tells me that’s good enough for a first down every two rushing tries. The defensive line was equally impressive limiting FIU to a pedestrian 2.2 yards per carry and just 73 yards rushing on the night. Coach Brian Jenkins stated after the game he challenged his offensive and defensive lines and based on the above-mentioned statistics, they answered the challenge pretty well.
FBS teams often enjoy their greatest level of superiority in the trenches when facing FCS opponents; so to see Bethune-Cookman’s big men not just hold up well but dominate the lines of scrimmage was a welcoming sign. Line play has been a tiresome point of criticism of HBCU squads for the better part of the last decade. Let’s hope BCU has solved this riddle as we get deeper into the season.
Take me away
Despite leading the nation in takeaways last season, BCU failed to register a turnover in week one versus Tennessee State. However, the Wildcat defense has seemed to regain their ball-hawking ways and have produced 5 takeaways in the past two games. Tim Burke’s 92 yard pick-six with 14:38 remaining in the contest ended any FIU hopes of a comeback attempt. It was BCU’s third pick-six of the season (Erik Williams and Nick Addison both returned interceptions for touchdowns in the Virginia Union game).
The Wildcats step WAY up in competition when they take on the #8 ranked Florida State Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night. This will be the first ever match up with the Noles.