The good folks at the University of Miami’s SB Nation site, The Seventh Floor, asked for a Bethune-Cookman fan’s perspective of this Saturday’s matchup between the two schools. I was tempted to refuse and inform the writer, who goes by the moniker of Avendittelli, that I rather “Stay in the Moment” and not get too far ahead of myself, but I relented.
The questions and answers of our conversation are posted below and can also be found on the Miami Sports blog available here: Q&A with Hail Wildcats.
7th Floor: What are the expectations this year for Bethune-Cookman? MEAC conference title? 1-AA playoffs or bust?
Hail Wildcats: The expectations in Daytona Beach are extremely high this season. Head Coach Brian Jenkins has repeatedly and emphatically declared that his goal is to win a National Championship at Bethune-Cookman. In fact, Coach Jenkins has unrelentingly declared that anything less than a National Championship is a failure; so the bar has been raised pretty high for the Wildcats. I believe most Wildcat fans will be disappointed with anything less than at least one playoff win this season.
Heading into the season, BCU was picked to finish 3rd in the MEAC behind defending champion Norfolk State, who the Cats beat last season, and South Carolina State, a team that Bethune-Cookman defeated just last week by a pretty healthy margin.
7th Floor: Are the Wildcats taking anything from last year’s game in Miami? A lot of returning starters, so should be very experienced. They played great for the first 3 quarters, then things got out of hand late.
Hail Wildcats: Last year BCU out rushed the Canes on the ground 219 yards to 126 yards and racked up almost 100 more yards of total offense (422 to 335). 9 offensive starters return to this year’s team so I am sure that they will not be intimidated by “The U”. My guess is that BCU will feel confident in their ability to move the ball against Miami’s young defense. Defensively, the Wildcats blew several assignments in the secondary in last year’s contest and the Canes made them pay for it. They can ill afford to do that this year if they hope to keep this game close. They have more depth in the defensive front seven this season and the coaching staff will have them believing that they can compete on Saturday just as they did for the first 3 quarters last year.
7th Floor: How did your defense look against Georgia transfer Isaiah Crowell? He left the game early for cramps, but after Alabama State’s first drive, it looked like the B-CU defense shut him down.
Hail Wildcats: Crowell was the SEC Freshmen of the Year in 2011 for Georgia, yet he was only able to muster 18 yards rushing on 9 attempts against BCU’s defense. Crowell’s struggles were partly due to cramping and partly due to the poor play of his offensive line, but you have to give BCU’s defense credit for the job they did on him. It’s hard to hold anyone to just 2 yards per carry and the Wildcats pulled that off against one of the best backs in the SEC last season.
7th Floor: Coach Brian Jenkins has hit the ground rolling, with an 18-5 record in his first two seasons. Is he not long for the office at Daytona Beach? Or would he stick around to potentially build a 1-AA powerhouse?
Hail Wildcats: Former Miami Assistant and new Tampa Bay Head Coach Greg Schiano is Brian Jenkins’s coaching mentor. From my understanding, Jenkins had an opportunity to join Coach Schiano’s staff in Tampa but elected to stay at Bethune to (quote) “finish what he started”. He has stated that he did not take the BCU job to be a stepping stone or launching pad into another coaching position. I take him at his word. I think he likes it in Daytona Beach. It is a great place to live and a great place to raise a family. I think he as a great working relationship with BCU athletic director Lynn Thompson and I think he has developed several other close and personal relationships both at the university and in the city. I personally do not believe that he is looking for the first decent opportunity to leave Bethune-Cookman for another more high profile head coaching job. But let’s not kid ourselves, if the right job comes along then he simply cannot say no. There are bigger, more high profile programs out there and it would be foolish to believe that he will coach at Bethune for the duration of his head coaching career if he continues to have this type of success. But for now, he’s committed to building BCU into a perennial FCS power and I think he wants to finish the work that he started.
7th Floor: Prediction for Saturday’s game? Can Bethune-Cookman shock the nation?
Hail Wildcats: I believe the odds makers have the University of Miami as a 3 touchdown favorite. That is probably where the line should be. I expect this game to remain competitive for all 4 quarters this year. Miami is the deeper, more talented team and they should win. BCU is the more experienced team and they have legitimate Division 1 talent at nearly every position on the field. I do not have a prediction but I will say if the Wildcats catch a break here or there (i.e. a defensive score, a special teams score, a couple of turnovers, etc,) then who knows. Things could get real interesting.