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.
This will sound a little bonkers to you if you only casually followed Bethune-Cookman football through the first two weeks of the season but hear me out. Despite their 0-2 record and despite yielding 1,141 yards of total offense in those two games, Bethune-Cookman has shown me enough to believe they will fair well in SWAC play this season.
I fully admit I often see-through maroon and gold lens. Fair enough. But I am offering an objective analysis this time. I promise! I think!
So here goes my reasoning. I had a group chat rolling last Saturday evening during the UCF vs BCU game. It was the same group chat I had rolling when the Wildcats traveled to El Paso to face UTEP but I digress. There were three active football coaches in that chat. The exact quote from one of those coaches was “after 5 quarters of watching BCU this year, we can all agree that they are a good FCS football team.” They matched up well against UTEP from a size, speed and athleticism standpoint and there were several guys who really popped out against UCF as well.
Now admittedly, that chat thread grew awfully quiet by midway through the 2nd quarter of play against UCF, however, the thought process remains. I saw enough positive things and heard enough positive feedback from guys who know what they are talking about to feel pretty good about BCU Football as they enter the portion of the season that truly matters.
We won’t have to wait long before the Wildcats start to prove or disprove these assumptions.
Reigning HBCU National Champions Alabama A&M roll into Daytona stadium this Thursday evening in what will be Bethune-Cookman’s first ever SWAC conference contest. The Bulldogs head into the contest winners of seven straight including a 42-41 shootout against South Carolina State in Week One. Brian “Juice” Jenkins Jr., former Daytona Beach Mainland standout and son of former Wildcat head coach Brian Jenkins Sr. had a game high 112 yards receiving against South Carolina State. Cookman’s defense will have their hands full trying to slow down Jenkins, SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Aqeel Glass and Connell Maynor’s high octane offense.
Glass’ 426 yards passing and 4 touchdown tosses this season is almost identical to BCU talisman, Shannon Patrick’s 453 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. The glaring difference being Glass’ stats all came in one game compared to Patrick doing it over two. Granted, Patrick led his team against two FBS opponents including one that is headed to the Big 12. The playing field levels out beginning this week when the Wildcats begin a stretch run of 9 straight contests against FCS competition.
Alabama A&M’s undersized front seven surrendered 242 yards on the ground against SCSU. Meanwhile the Cats’ Que’shaun Byrd is averaging 6.7 yards per rushing attempt with a long of 68 yards this season. We fully expect the Wildcats will look to take advantage of Byrd’s playmaking ability and their size advantage in the trenches this week.
Defensive Coordinator Yogi Jones has shown great patience in sticking with a ton of shell coverage so far. I suppose you can say there has been a lot of “bend” in the defense. Unfortunately for the Wildcats and their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, the “but don’t break” part of the moniker has been absent from the D. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 11 of 13 Red Zone tries and the defense has only forced 5 punts this season. Ouch. The Wildcats have to find a way to limit the Bulldogs to kicking situations. Maybe that comes through pressuring Glass and forcing punts. Maybe that comes by forcing field goal tries once inside the Red Zone. Either way, Cookman’s defense has to find a way to slow down this Bulldog offense.
In addition to Byrd proving himself as a reliable playmaker, pass catchers Darryl Powell Jr., Marcus Riley and Kemari Averett have all proven to be matchup problems. Bethune-Cookman should not have many issues moving the ball against the Bulldogs. It will be critical that the Wildcats finish drives with touchdowns because I believe the first team to score 38 wins this contest.
I also believe this is an excellent opportunity for Terry Sims’ men to plant their flag and remind the HBCU World that the Wildcats are 8-0 against SWAC competition since 2006. We think…I repeat think Bethune-Cookman is a good football team. We will follow up on that assumption in less than 72 hours. See you all at 7:30pm, Thursday, September 16th at Daytona Stadium.
Follow HailWildcats.com on socials and online. We will continue to bring you updates and insights into BCU football. We will also continue to help you support our guys as they play away from home. Click LetsGoWildcats.org for updated information on Fan Trips.
Shout out to all of the players, coaches and team personnel that endured arduous COVID protocols to bring us a semblance of a season in 2020. With that being said, IT WAS GREAT having college football fully back this weekend. Not the scaled back version of 2020, I am talking the full spectrum of all that makes college football the most wonderful pastime America has to offer. The full stadiums. The bands. The team colors. The pettiness. The overreactions. ALL OF IT. I realize I may sound a bit melodramatic but I needed this weekend desperately.
Unfortunately, our favorite gridiron gang came up short 38-28 against FBS foe University of Texas El Paso but Bethune-Cookman’s effort was applaudable even in defeat. Here are our final thoughts, reactions and overreactions to Week One of @BCUGridiron Football.
I LIKE OUR GUYS
BCU got off to a sluggish start in the first half but that was to be expected after a 600+ day hiatus. The Wildcats trailed 10-0 at the intermission but rallied to score 28 points after halftime.
Shannon Patrick performed well under center and connected on 68% of his passes. Save for a couple of drops, Patrick’s completion rate would have topped 70% on the evening. Patrick looked poised and navigated the pocket well. Most of his and BCU’s offensive production came in the second half. The UAPB transfer’s best throw of the night was a 58 yard strike to wide receiver Marcus Riley late in the 3rd quarter. Three plays later, Patrick found tight end Kemari Averett in the back of the endzone for his second TD throw of the contest. Patrick’s performance answered many fans’ off-season concerns regarding the health of the quarterback position. If Week One’s performance against an FBS opponent is any indication, the QB position seems to be in good hands.
Riley and Averett both signed with Louisville before transferring to BCU. The duo ended the evening with almost identical stats registering 72 yards receiving apiece and 1 touchdown each. Riley’s quickness and Averett’s size at 6’7” offers the Wildcats a diversity in the passing game that should bode well for them this year. Add Running back Que’shaun Byrd to the mix and Wildcats have a formidable trio of playmakers on offense.
Byrd ended the night 2 yards shy of a C-Note and racked up 98 yards rushing on 12 attempts. The Wildcats longest play of the evening came courtesy of Bryd’s 68 yard scamper behind the right side of the offensive line.
BCU matched up well from a speed, size and athleticism standpoint across the board. You can even argue BCU may have been superior at the skill positions especially once they got their sea legs under them in the 3rd and 4th quarters. UTEP’s advantage came in the form of their line play and at the point of contact. Heck, based on the feedback the HailWildcats.com traveling party received while in El Paso, Miner fans expressed their team was awarded another advantage in the form of a highly debatable roughing the passer penalty when the game was still within one score. The Wildcat defense forced a three and out deep in Minor territory and was set the take over possession midway through the 3rd. The momentum was clearly in the Wildcats favor but a BCU defender was called for a late hit on the quarterback. UTEP retain possession and extended its lead several plays later. Miner fans, who were extremely gracious by the way, expressed their concerns about how the game may have turned out had that call not gone in their favor. But that is football and you have to live with the calls that are made.
Either way, I like how BCU’s skill guys and team in general matchup against any team in their conference after what I saw this weekend. The questions that remain are how well will the team continue to develop; and how well will the offensive and defensive lines hold up against SWAC opponents?
Reranking the Order
Wildcat fans have sang the same refrain over the past 2 months. “We are not the 5th best team in the SWAC East.” After watching quite a bit of SWAC football over these past several days, I would have to agree. Bethune-Cookman, even in defeat, looked more like an upper echelon SWAC team than the opposite. Sure that’s an overreaction to Week One but overreactions are as much a part of the game as tailgating and marching bands. The best part of football though is that it is played on a 100 yard field and not on blogs, in newspapers or social media spaces.
Bethune travels to the Bounce House to collect another payday…I mean compete against the University of Central Florida this Saturday. We are rooting for the Wildcats to exit Saturday’s contest with no injuries and another week of progress. Reigning Black College National Champs, Alabama A&M, invade Daytona Stadium the following Thursday Night in what will be Bethune’s first in conference SWAC action. That is when the real fun begins and fairer standards can be used to judge this team.
We invite you to travel with us to UCF as we support our guys. You can find travel details at LetsGoWildcats.org regarding all away trips this season. You should also tune in to https://www.joy1063fm.com/ on Thursday evenings from 8:00pm-9:45pm to talk BCU football. We would love to hear from you.
Hello Wildcat fans. It is game week! That’s right. You heard me correctly. I said game week. As in we are mere days away from an official, competitive football game against another team, from another university, wearing different color jerseys. The last time Bethune-Cookman found themselves in this position was in November 2019 when they secured their 80th FCS win of the 2010s. BCU’s 80 wins in the 2010s was highest among HBCUs and 8th in all of FCS. That’s pretty dang-on good if you ask me.
Since that feat, the Wildcats had an entire season canceled due to the COVID pandemic. They changed conference affiliations from the MEAC to the SWAC. Reggie Theus was installed as the new athletic director after Lynn Thompson’s 30 year run in that position ended. There is a new university president in place and frankly too many other changes to enumerate. What has remained the same is “football is still football”, as head coach Terry Sims often reminds us, and I am glad that it is back in full swing.
The Great Enigma
Bethune-Cookman enters its first season in the SWAC as a bit of a mystery. The league’s head coaches and sport information directors predicted BCU to finish fifth out of six teams in the Eastern Division. This despite the Cats winning their past 8 matchups against SWAC opponents.
The tepid expectations are easy to reason when you consider the productivity BCU will need to replace from 2019. Quarterback Akevious Williams has graduated. So has Mr. Do Everything offensive weapon, Jimmie Robinson. On the defensive side of the ball, gone are Marquis Hendrix, Marques Ford and Trevor Merritt who led the team in tackles, sacks and interceptions respectively. Coach Sims’ is reluctant to share roster information, depth chart information or any information about his team publicly which makes the already difficult job of making projections next to impossible in Daytona Beach. Here is a snapshot of what we think we know.
Probable Impact Players
Bethune returns 3 of 5 starters along the offensive line in Nicholas Roos, Jamal Savage and Cedric Jackson. Add in a couple of transfers from Grambling State and Mississippi Valley and the Cats’ offensive front emerges as the most experienced unit on the squad. We fully anticipate Arkansas Pine Bluff transfer, Shannon Patrick, to enter the first game as QB1. Patrick led the SWAC in completion percentage (62.8%) and was second in passing efficiency (160.5) in 2019.
Six foot six tight ends Tyron Mallard and Kemari Averett tip the scales at 250 and 260 and move well for men of their size. We expect both to feature prominently in this year’s offense. We also anticipate running back Que’Shaun Byrd and wide receiver Marcus Riley will share the Jimmie Robinson offensive playmaker role this year. Byrd and Riley are exceptional athletes with great top end speed. Their ability to play in space should suit them well in the SWAC.
The linebacking crew will have two new starters flanking BCU’s top returning tackler and All-SWAC 2nd teamer Untareo Johnson. The Defensive line and defensive backfield return a bevy of experienced players including, Judas McKenzie, Tony Bowman and Jamarquis Reeves along the front and Henry Miller, Omari Hill-Robinson and Devuntray Hampton on the backend.
The depth along the offensive and defensive lines, the experience in the defensive backfield and the different kinds of matchup issues the Cats can create on offense are all positives for this year’s squad. The two biggest question marks facing this year’s team will be (a) can they get consistent production from the quarterback position; and (b) will they be able to rush the quarterback consistently?
When you consider all of the above information; compare it with what we think we know about other teams around the HBCU world and throw it all in a really advanced sports algorithm, the results state we still have no clue of what to expect this season. Objectively speaking, Bethune-Cookman is as likely to finish atop the Eastern Division as they are to finish in their predicted order of fifth. We just do not know. We do not know how COVID protocols will impact teams and games. We do not know how Bethune’s long list of new players will acclimate, gel and contribute. We do not know how well Cookman will handle the transition to the SWAC, although watching NCCU handle Alcorn last week is at least an early encouraging sign. There are simply too many variables to make any predictions with any real confidence. The good news for all of us is we won’t have to wait much longer to figure it all out.
A faithful crew of HailWildcat.com supporters will travel to El Paso to cheer on our guys as they take on the University of Texas-El Paso Miners this Saturday, September 4th at 9:00pm in the Sun Bowl.
The Miners blasted New Mexico State 30-3 last week in their season opener. BCU enters the contest as 19.5 point underdogs against UTEP but an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. Crazier things have happened.
Join us here and on socials for updates and insights all year long. You can also join us to talk Bethune-Cookman football everyone Thursday night from 8:30pm -9:30pm on 106.3 Joy FM in the Daytona Beach Area or 1063joyfm.com world wide.
“Let’s GO” to El Paso Wildcats. The HailWildcat.com “Let’s Go Wildcats” family will travel to El Paso, Texas to support the Fighting Wildcats as they kickoff the 2021 football season on September 5th. Click Let’s Go Wildcats to find more information on how you can travel with us to support our favorite team. We look forward to you seeing you there.