The cascading colors of fall foliage are just starting to approach their crowning in the Mid-Eastern United States. Concurrently, the true contenders for the Mid-Eastern Athletic crown are just starting to approach the point of the season where they must show their true colors or risk falling by the wayside.
A quick glance at the MEAC standings through Week Six shockingly reveals Florida A&M as the lone unblemished team in conference play. Six teams, including Bethune-Cookman, find themselves adorned with 1-1 records and tied for second.
BCU is 3-3 overall at the midpoint but the road is still wide open for Terry Sims and his squad to reach their goal of securing a berth in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Saturday, December 15th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Wildcats face 5 of the conference’s top 7 teams between now and the end of the season beginning with this weekend’s matchup against South Carolina State in Orangeburg.
And since we are at the midpoint, we may as well hand out a few grades and highlight a few noteworthy items we have witnessed through the first six weeks.
The Good– Cookman boasts the MEAC’s top scoring offense (36.8 ppg) and second leading total offense (393.3 ypg). The offense was expected to struggle early but they have been a refreshing revelation in the first half of the season. Junior quarterback Arkevious Williams has been as good as any QB in the league sporting a MEAC best 155.2 passing efficiency. The 6’2” signal caller from Madison, Florida, who is enjoying his first season as the full time starter, has had plenty of help leading the Cats offense.
Keavon Mitchell is living up to expectations and heads a very good group of receivers. Mitchell has proven his mettle as both a reliable target man and a playmaker. Malique Jackson, Jonathon Thomas, and Jimmie Robinson are also regular contributors in the passing game.
The Not So Good— We fully understand stats can sometimes be misleading but if we use them as a justification for praise, they should also be used a barometer of what needs to be addressed. The BCU rushing attack has improved as the season progressed but an honest assessment of the ground game yields unspectacular ratings. We have yet to see the ground game dominate or even product a 100 yard rusher this season. The offensive line is improving but to this point, they are better pass blockers than run blockers and still a work in progress.
Quarterback keepers on broken plays have proven to be the most effective part of the run attack. Offensive coordinator Allen Suber must find a way to get more consistency out of the rushing attack in October and November if the Cats are to find their way to Atlanta.
The Good— Marques Ford (DE), Marquis Hendrix (LB), Elliott Miller (CB) and Kennedy N’Dukwe (S) have all been outstanding on defense. Ford leads the team in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (7.5) while Hendrix is the team leader in total tackles (43) and interceptions (2). Elliott and N’Dukwe patrol the backend of the defense and have come up with one big play after another through the first six game.
Although the Cats have enjoyed very good individual performances from these and other defensive stars, like Todney Evans against Mississippi Valley, they remain in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories. Most significantly, BCU is giving up over 31 points a game and three of the team’s six opponents were Virginia-Lynchburg, Savannah State and Mississippi Valley State.
HBCU pundits and the Wildcat coaching staff alike predicted the Wildcat D would need to carry the team until the offense gained its footing. Things have proven to be just the opposite. There is no doubt BCU is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball; now it is time the production catches up.
Special Teams: B+
With special thanks to Flagler Palm Coast products, Jimmie Robinson and Que’shaun Byrd, the Wildcats have 3 kickoff return touchdowns this season. To give you some perspective of how big of a deal that is, prior to Byrd’s 88 yard KR against Virginia-Lynchburg and Robinson’s 94 and 99 yard kick returns against Howard, BCU’s last kickoff return for a touchdown was taken to the house by Eddie Poole in 2010. Usher’s “There Go My Baby” was the #1 song in the land in 2010.
I said “Ur-sher” baby!
The kicking game has also been good for the Wildcats. The one area you would like to see BCU improve on special teams is in their kickoff coverage. The Cats still yield more yards than you would like on kickoff coverage.
After six games, the team sits at 3-3. There has been some good coaching (see the special teams blurb above), some alright coaching and some forgettable moments for Sims and his staff. Tennessee State was very much a forgettable moment. The Tigers outplayed and outcoached the Wildcats in every facet of the game in the season opener. BCU is a completely different team now but someone has to own the team’s lack of performance against TSU.
We credit the coaching staff for not losing the team after the disastrous 34-3 shellacking on opening weekend.
Allen Suber and the offensive coaches deserve credit for the offensive production through this juncture of the season. We also think fans are well within their rights to expect more from Yogi Jones and the defensive coaches for that side of the ball not playing up to expectations or their overall talent level.
Overall the coaching has been average. The on the field product has been good enough to yield a respectable result against a quality FBS opponent but not good enough to dominate a lowly SWAC opponent. That’s pretty average.
There are six games remaining and Atlanta is still in view. We are hoping our end of the season grades are better than the midterm. More importantly, we are hoping the Wildcats will be celebrating their first conference title since 2015.
The good news for Terry Sims and his men is they do not have to hope. They get to control the narrative and their destiny through their performance on the field.
Saturday’s kickoff against South Carolina is at 2:00PM and can be streamed live on ESPN3.