Following 13th ranked (SportsNetwork) Bethune-Cookman’s pivotal 14-3 win over South Carolina State Saturday at Municipal Stadium, I started thinking about the intense battles this matchup has produced in recent history.
Although the Bulldogs lead the series 28-19-1, the Wildcats have won three of the last four meetings and have had some of their most memorable wins in school history versus their conference foes from Orangeburg, SC.
Listed below are the top five games between the Wildcats and Bulldogs.
What a great time to be in the World’s Most Famous Beach. The days are sunny, the nights are pleasant, and there is a tangible sensation of excitement permeating the air. It is homecoming week at Bethune-Cookman University and the Wildcats are preparing to take on perennial MEAC power South Carolina State.
This matchup is special any time it’s played. Adding the pageantry, expectations, and atmosphere of a homecoming event to it as well as the stakes of first place in the league standings makes it epic.
The BCU vs. SCSU annual showdown has become one of the best on-the-field rivalries (albeit a non-traditional one) in all of HBCU football. There is no disdain for or hatred of the opposing team’s fan base. There are no geographical wars over disputed lands of which to speak. To the best of our knowledge, no grandkids have been written out of the Will for choosing the wrong side and no giant oak trees have been poisoned (sorry Auburn fans). Instead, this rivalry evolved from intense, hard-hitting action on the field and the primal desire of 2 clans of alpha males slugging it out to prove that they are the MEAC’s top dog (or top cat if you prefer).
SCSU standout defensive lineman Javon Hargrave stated he thinks about Bethune-Cookman a lot. “The coaches keep saying how they’ve got us set up for homecoming,” Hargrave said. “We just don’t get along with Bethune-Cookman very well. South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman is a rivalry.”
Tradional HBCU rivalries like Jackson State vs. Tennessee State; Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M; and FAMU vs. Southern all draw much larger crowds, but when BCU and SCSU tangle the outcomes have an impact on the college football landscape.
The winner of this game has gone on to win 4 of the last 5 MEAC championships. They share 5 playoff appearances between themselves since 2008 and they have won 2 Black College National Championships in that same timeframe. BCU and SCSU were predicted to finish 1st and 2nd respectively by the league’s coaches and sports information directors at this year’s MEAC Media Luncheon. They rank first and second in the league in Scoring Offense, Total Offense, Scoring Defense, and Total Defense.
SCSU head coach Buddy Pough has won four MEAC crowns in 11 seasons and guided the Bulldogs to an all-time MEAC best 21 consecutive game conference win streak from 2007-2010. In a twist of irony, BCU can match that mark this season if they win out and it was the Jenkins-led Wildcats who ended the Bulldogs win streak in Oliver Dawson Stadium in October of 2010.
The Wildcats have won 2 MEAC titles in Brian Jenkins’ first 3 seasons. Jenkins owns a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Pough and BCU has won 9 of the past 15 matchups with SCSU. The Wildcats are the only MEAC school to boast a winning record in Orangeburg during Pough’s tenure (3-1). However, this game isn’t being played in South Cackalacky and the homefield has proven to be somewhat of a disadvantage in this matchup as of late. The road team has inexplicably won 6 of the last 8 meetings in this contest. In SCSU’s last visit to Municipal Stadium two years ago, they left with a 26-18 victory.
The 2011 loss suffered at the hands of the Bulldogs is the only MEAC home defeat on Jenkins’ record and it is all that separates coach Jenkins from earning 3 MEAC crowns in 3 years. Saturday’s winner will earn sole possession of 1st place in the conference and gain a stronghold on the league’s automatic qualifier bid for postseason play.
It’s Buddy vs. Brian; the 101 vs. the Pride; the old guard vs. the new; Big Dogs vs. Big Cats; South Carolina State vs. Bethune-Cookman. It’s HBCU football at its best.
So tell us what you think. Has the BCU vs. SCSU matchup become the best non-traditionalrivalry in HBCU football?
Frazier versus Ali; that’s the way Coach Brian Jenkins described this weekend’s conference showdown with powerhouse South Carolina State. The two squads enter the contest as the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network’s Black College Football Poll. The winner of this heavyweight matchup will emerge as the clear frontrunner to this year’s MEAC crown. The loser will find themselves “scoreboard watching” and wishing for help over the weeks to come.
Brian Jenkins’ club ended SCSU’s 21-game conference win streak last year and was the first MEAC squad to blank the Bulldogs at home in over 30 years.
Previewing the Dogs
Buddy Pough’s Bulldogs have grown unaccustomed with losing over recent years. Take last week’s defeat against Central Michigan (CMU) as an example. SCSU lost by 15 points, on the road against an FBS opponent. Most FCS schools would consider that a good showing; but not Bulldog fans. Many members of the “Dog pound” believe South Carolina State was good enough to win that game and Brian Jenkins tends to agree. In his weekly teleconference, Coach Jenkins stated that SCSU was three makeable plays away from pulling off the upset against CMU.
SCSU boasts one of the best defenses in FCS football (2nd in total defense in 2010). The Bulldog defense held CMU to 256 yards of total offense and 21 points last week. By comparison, BCU’s offense produced nearly double the yardage output (500 yards) and triple the points scored (63) against Prairie View in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. South Carolina State has at least one all-conference performer at all three levels of their defense (Patrick Washington-DL, Donovan Richard-LB, Dominique Ellis-DB). Washington is an extremely athletic, havoc causing defensive lineman. His style of play is very similar to that of BCU defensive end, Ryan Davis. The Wildcat offense must account for Washington in both the running and passing game. Donovan Richard is an above average linebacker who possess great range and speed. He recorded 10 tackles (1 tackle for a loss) in last week’s defeat at CMU.
SCSU QB Derrick Wiley
On the offensive side of the ball, Derrick Wiley is a mobile quarterback who struggled with his accuracy a week ago. Wiley and the Bulldogs are without the services of wide receiver Lennel Elmore who is ineligible due to grades. Elmore led the Bulldogs in receiving and was an All-MEAC performer a year ago. The Dogs will depend upon Asheton Jordan (RB) and the running game to carry the load until the passing game gets on track. Jordan is a physical runner with decent speed. He’ll lineup behind an offensive line that featured four new starters and struggled to establish the line of scrimmage last week against CMU.
Blake Erickson is the place kicker and he gives the Bulldogs a decided advantage in the kicking game.
A Closer Look at the Wildcats
In spite BCU’s 49 point victory to open the season, there is still much room for improvement. QB, Jamarr Robinson racked up 281 yards of offense (251 passing and 30 rushing) and earned MVP honors at last week’s MEAC/SWAC Challenge. However, Robinson appeared to miss on a few reads in the passing game and was errant on several throws. The Wildcats also committed far too many penalties last week (12 penalties for 132 yards).
On a positive note, BCU’s offensive and defensive fronts dominated the line of scrimmage. Particularly impressive was the play of defensive tackles Harold Love, Jameil Farrington, and Lavon McCoy. Another impressive sight from last week’s contest was the quality of depth displayed by the Wildcats. Coach Jenkins seemingly rotated 3 or 4 players on every play, yet there was no noticeable drop off in talent.
Fighting like Cats and Dogs
Bethune’s offense versus South Carolina State’s defense is strength against strength. The outcome of this game will likely depend upon the play of the other units. Can the Bulldog offense effectively run the ball and limit the possessions of BCU’s high-powered offense? Will the Wildcat’s opportunistic defense force turnovers (6 takeaways last week) and short field situations? Which squad will ascend as the top team in black college football? We’ll have our answers to these questions when this highly anticipated matchup kickoff at 4:00, Saturday, September 10th at Municipal Stadium.
BCU ranked 1st in Total Offense and Scoring Offense in the MEAC last year.
SCSU ranked 1st in Total Defense and Scoring Defense in the conference.
Last 10 contests in the series—
BCU and SCSU are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings.
Recent Memorable Matchups —
2005—SCSU QB Cleveland McCoy led the Bulldogs on a game winning 17 play, 80 yard 4th quarter touchdown drive to defeat the Wildcats 27-24 in Jacksonville.
2006—After trailing by 14 points, Coach Alvin Wyatt scrapped the Wyatt-Bone offense in favor of a 4 wide receiver set. BCU scored 45 unanswered points and defeated the Bulldogs 45-21. BCU QB, Jarrod Rucker threw 5 touchdowns in that contest.
2010—BCU defeated 14-0 in Orangeburg ending the Bulldog’s 21-game conference winning streak.