Wildcats fall to defending SWAC champions Alabama A&M, 30-27

DAYTONA, FL—Head coach Terry Sims and the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats opened their inaugural season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference against the defending champion Alabama A&M University Bulldogs in search of their first win of the season. Unfortunately, untimely penalties and a failure to get stops on the defensive end in key moments of the game caused the Wildcats to suffer their third loss of the season in as many games 30-27 at Daytona Stadium at Larry Kelly Field.

Sims was particularly perturbed by the number of penalties the Wildcats amassed in the game (14-144), many of which allowed Alabama A&M to sustain scoring drives.

“Way too many penalties in the first half, Sims said. It was something we talked about all week that couldn’t happen. I think we had over 100 yards of penalties in the first half (12-124) and you’re not going to win football games that way.”

Coming into the game, both teams had a healthy respect for each other’s offenses and those units did not disappoint. Preseason SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Aqeel Glass paced the Bulldogs with 243 yards of total offense (234 passing) and two touchdown passes, while Wildcat senior quarterback Shannon Patrick went 17-31 for 221 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Leading the ground game for the Wildcats was Que’Shaun Byrd rushing for 132 yards and two scores on 21 carries, while AAMU’s Gary Quarles broke the century mark with 101 yards on 27 carries and a score.

Bulldogs treated to Pre-Game Florida Monsoon

The beginning of the game was marred by classic Florida inclement weather. A torrential downpour less than a half hour before kickoff and the presence of lightning strikes in the area forced the game to be delayed by 30 minutes. Once the game was underway, the “electric” play of both Glass and the Bulldog offense was immediately on display.

Alabama A&M got on the board first after a Wildcat miscue. Following a Patrick interception by AAMU safety Trenell Troutman, six plays later, Glass found receiver Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim on a quarterback rollout for an eight-yard touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead over the Wildcats with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs would then add two additional field goals (one in the first and another in the second) by Spencer Corey after scoring drives of 65 yards and 59 yards respectively to increase the AAMU lead to 13-0 with 12:18 remaining in the first half.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats would finally get on the board as sophomore defensive back Darnell Deas caught the ball at the BCU 11-yard line and took the kickoff 89 yards for the first Wildcat touchdown of the evening. The successful PAT attempt cut the Bulldog deficit to 13-7 with 12:04 remaining in the first half.

AAMU immediately came back and engineered a nine play, 64-yard drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown scamper by Quarles to extend the Wildcat deficit to 20-7 with 8:20 remaining in the first half.

The Cats were able to find paydirt again via Byrd as he took a delayed handoff and rushed 14 yards for the second Wildcat score of the half, capping a seven play, 52-yard drive to cut the deficit to 20-13 with 3:04 remaining before halftime after a failed PAT attempt by Dylan Moghaddam.

AAMU head coach Connell Maynor and the Bulldogs would then employ their two-minute offense, largely behind the arm of Glass and finished a 10 play, 65-yard drive with a 12 yard touchdown strike to Ibrahim in the back of the end zone where he was able to toe-tap his way to his second score of the game to give the Bulldogs a commanding 27-13 lead heading into the locker room.

In the third quarter, Byrd would get his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard rush to bring the Cats to within 27-21 after a successful two-point conversion by Patrick and in the fourth both teams traded scores, with Corey notching his third FG of the night to extend the Bulldog lead to 30-21.

Late in the fourth quarter the Cats were finally treated to a Kemari Averett sighting. The senior tight end was largely responsible for BCU’s final touchdown, snagging a 42 yard pass up the seam and capping the six play, 60-yard drive with a seven-yard reception from Patrick to bring the Cats within 30-27 with 8:50 remaining. For the game, Averett led all Wildcat receivers with 64 yards on three receptions and a score.

The Atlanta, GA native, after impressive showings at UTEP and Central Florida, notched his third great outing of the season (11 receptions, 169 yards 2TD’s) something not lost on his head coach as Sims was effusive with praise of his 6’6 tight end, regarding the fact that his size and speed presents huge matchup problems for opposing defenses.

“He means so much to our team. We have two tight ends that are matchup problems for a lot of people. And we have to use him more and that’ll open things up for Byrd and some of our other receivers, so we have to get back to the drawing board get some more things done to get him targeted more.”

Head Scratching PAT Attempt

On the PAT attempt, the Cats failed an attempted two-point conversion, much to the surprise of the fans and supporters of B-CU as well as the AAMU special teams unit considering they were only down three points with a chance to inch closer to a deficit of two, something Sims said was simply a miscommunication.

“I’m never one to blame anything on players, but we were supposed to kick the ball, Sims said. The holder and the kicker got the signals mixed up and they thought we were going for it, but we were supposed to line up and kick the extra point at that time. It was simply a miscommunication.”

What’s Up Next?

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 2-0 overall (1-0 SWAC East) and will host Division II in-state rival Tuskegee in the friendly confines of Lewis Crews Stadium next weekend. Game time is set for 5pm CST.

With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 0-3 overall (0-1 SWAC East) and will travel to Montgomery, AL to take on Alabama State on September 25th at ASU Stadium. Game time is set for 6pm EST.