One week after losing its first home SWAC contest against Alabama A&M, Bethune-Cookman suffered its first SWAC road defeat to another school from “The Yellowhammer State.” Alabama State handed BCU a resounding 38-24 defeat in a game that was not as close as the two touchdown margin might suggest.
The Hornets outgained Bethune on the ground (111 yards – 12 yards). They threw for more yards in the air (267- 247). They caused more turnovers (4-3), executed better, coached better, sang the school fight song better; you name it and the Hornets did it better on Saturday night. This was a comprehensive butt-kicking that left the Wildcat fans in attendance with more questions than answers.
Alabama State never trailed in Saturday’s contest. Freshman quarterback Ryan Nettles led the Hornets to touchdowns on four of ASU’s first five possessions. The Wildcats received the kickoff to start the 3rd quarter looking to cut into the 28-17 halftime deficit. But a quick 3 and out by the Wildcats followed by a 13 play, 65 yard touchdown drive on the Hornets ensuring possession put the game out of reach.
Kemari Averett paced BCU with 140 yards receiving on 9 catches offensively while Tekeven Thomas from nearby Troy, Alabama performed well in front of friends and family defensively. Thomas registered 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 9 total tackles.
Bend but don’t break is broken
Coach Terry Sims has long subscribed to a “bend but don’t break defensive philosophy.” The problem for Bethune-Cookman is that philosophy has been bent out of shape and all broken into pieces through the first third of the season. The “bend but don’t break” approach tends to work out well when you can play with a lead, get off the field by forcing punts and turnovers, and when you can limit your opponents to field goal attempts. However, BCU’s defense ranks 9th in the conference in 3rd down conversion percentage, 10th in points per game, 11th in yards surrendered and dead last in red zone defense. Opponents have made 25 trips inside BCU’s 20 yardline and have scored on 24 of those 25 red zone possessions. ASU converted all 6 of their red zone tries against Cookman on Saturday; 5 of those being touchdowns. The Wildcats can no longer bend and break. They will need to pick their poison or try something different altogether ‘cause this ain’t working.’
They can’t be right, right?
The entire season ain’t working up to this point to tell the truth. Honest BCU fans had no idea what to expect from this team when the season began. The Wildcats entered the season having played no football in 2020 and losing their statistical leaders in every major category from the 2019 season. Even still, you could hear the Wildcat fans laughing in derision when SWAC head coaches and sports information directors predicted BCU to finish 5th in the Eastern Division in the preseason. There was no way our beloved Wildcats could be a bottom half SWAC team right? RIGHT? After all, 2006 was the last time BCU fell to a SWAC opponent. They had since rattled off 8 straight victories over SWAC foes. It just didn’t make sense that the Fighting Wildcats were being so disrespected by our SWAC brethren. Yet here we stand four games into the season and still searching for victory number one.
Maybe the lack of a 2020 Spring season is impacting this team more than anticipated. Maybe starting the year on the road and losing to two FBS teams is having more of an effect on the good guys’ psyche than we appreciated. Maybe the fact that both Alabama A&M and Alabama State had a bye week prior to facing BCU played a role in what we are seeing. Or perhaps it is as simple as this is not a good football team right now. We can deliberate all of the reasons why the Cats have not so much as held a lead at any point in the season let alone win a game but excuses will not cut it. This team needs more answers than explanations right now. The coaches have come up with a better approach and make adjustments more quickly. Players have to execute better or they will run the risk of allowing the entire season to get away from them. The margin for error is razor thin at this point but there is still time to salvage a productive season out of all of this.
The guys in maroon and gold will look to collect their first check mark in the win column when they face old MEAC rival South Carolina State in Orangeburg this Saturday. The Bulldogs are also looking for their first win of the season so there will be a lot on the line when the Dogs and Cats get together. Kickoff is slated for 1:30pm. You are invited to travel with us to Orangeburg to support our guys. More information about this and all away game trips is available at LetsGoWildcats.org.