The Vegas betting lines closed on Saturday with FCS Bethune-Cookman listed as three point road favorites against FBS Florida International. The Wildcats’ narrow 14-12 victory didn’t quite cover the Vegas point spread or much resemble the 34-13 drubbing they put on FIU a season ago but it thrilled BCU’s coaches, players and fans nonetheless.
“All I can say is thank you. The Good Lord was on our side tonight. My hat goes off to this FIU team (they are) majorly improved” a relieved Brian Jenkins exclaimed at the end of the contest.
The Wildcats’ stifling defense limited FIU to just 186 yards of total offense and was largely to blame for the win. Erik Williams led the defensive charge accounting for 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 8 total tackles in the winning effort. “Erik is a tremendous player. He has had to fight back through two shoulder injuries. He is back and I think he has proven that he can play at a dominating level. I am glad that he is playing for us” Jenkins stated.
On the other side of the ball, BCU’s offense found it difficult to find its rhythm for large portions of the evening. Quentin Williams got the start at quarterback and helped the Cats sustain a nice opening drive.
However, the Wildcat offense failed to convert the opening drive into points and remained pedestrian until early in the 2nd quarter when Williams connected with Michael Jones on a 46 yard screen pass on 3rd and 15. After a 17 yard Williams to Darian Baker pass and run, Jones capped the drive with a 1 yard td run to give BCU an early 7-0 lead.
FIU return specialist Richard Leonard set the Panthers up with nice field position after returning the ensuing kickoff 54 yards. The Panthers registered their first points of the season 6 plays later when Austin Taylor successfully converted a 25 yard field goal.
Taylor converted his second 25 yard field goal of the contest near the end of the 2nd quarter and cut BCU’s lead to 7-6 heading into the half.
The Wildcat offense continued to struggle in the 2nd half. In fact, BCU only crossed midfield once in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Thankfully for the Cats, the lone 2nd half venture into FIU territory ended with a 55 yard touchdown toss from Williams to redshirt freshman receiver Frank Brown with 12:26 remaining in the 4th. Williams was forced to scramble to his right on the play to avoid multiple FIU defenders. He spotted Brown breaking free of coverage up the left seam and gave his receiver a chance to make a play on the ball. Brown outleaped one defender, made a 2nd defender miss and outran everyone for BCU’s go ahead score. The td catch was Brown’s first ever collegiate reception.
“I dreamt the last three nights that I would score in this game on a big play so when the ball was in the air I just attacked it like my coaches taught me.” “Right before the game, my (position) coach told me this is your first college game, make your first big play. That stuck with me throughout the game“ Brown stated. “(Crossing the goal line) felt great.”
FIU threaten late when Leonard made another spectacular return, this time on the end of a Jonathan Cagle punt. The 71 yard return gave the Panther’s 1st and goal from the BCU 7 yard line. FIU punctuated the drive when Alex McGough connected with TJ Lowder on a 5 yard slant on 4th and 5 to cut the BCU lead to 14-12. But that was as close as FIU would get.
Bethune’s defense stood strong once again and held the Panthers’ on the 2 point conversion attempt.
The Panthers had one last opportunity to secure the victory after assuming possession at their own 39 yard line with 2:29 remaining. After converting a 4th and 13 and tacking on an additional 15 yards for roughing the passer, FIU was primed to seal just its 2nd victory since the 2012 season.
FIU lined up for what would have been a game winning 46 yard FG attempt with 5 seconds remaining. However, the snap was botched and BCU held on for the victory.
The Cats have a bye week next Saturday before playing hosts to Grambling State in their home opener on September 13th.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-16||1-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||3-5|
|TD||11:26||Michael D. Jones 1 Yd Run (Haden Hoggarth Kick)||7||0|
|FG||9:02||Austin Taylor 25 Yd Field Goal||7||3|
|FG||3:27||Austin Taylor 25 Yd Field Goal||7||6|
|TD||12:26||Frank Brown 55 Yd pass from Quentin Williams (Haden Hoggarth Kick)||14||6|
|TD||5:16||T.J. Lowder 5 Yd pass from Alex McGough (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed)||14||12|