After a hard fought 12-9 road victory over Tennessee State last Sunday, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats return to the friendly confines of Municipal Stadium to take on the Virginia Union Panthers in today’s home opener.
Like Tenn State, Virginia Union will field a bevy of Floridians (19 are listed on VUU’s roster including 5 from Sanford Seminole) who would love nothing more than to shock the HBCU sports world by upsetting the top ranked team in black college football. But unlike TSU, Virginia Union, who competes in Division II, does not stand much of a chance in pulling off the upset against Brian Jenkins’ club.
The Panthers finished 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the CIAA a season ago. VUU was predicted to finish 8th in their conference heading into this season; they can offer just over half the number of scholarships as BCU (NCAA rules limit full football scholarships to 36 for D2 institutions; as compared to 63 for FCS programs); and today’s game is VUU’s season opener. All signs suggest this should be a decisive BCU win. But hey, its football and you still have to line-up and play the game.
In fact, Wildcat fans should well remember the last time a CIAA team visited Daytona Beach (in 2009) the Shaw Bears forced 7 BCU turnovers and may have helped seal the fate of then head coach Alvin Wyatt Sr. as the Bears defeated the Wildcats 20-6. We expect no such recurrence today. The Wildcats are simply too big, too strong, too fast and they should have no problems imposing their will on the out-manned Panthers.
Look for the BCU running game, led by senior Isidore Jackson, to have a huge day. Jackson is now less than 400 yards away from becoming Bethune-Cookman’s all-time leading rusher. Senior wide out Eddie Poole will look to continue his consecutive game pass-catching streak. No word yet on who will start under center for BCU but expect to see multiple signal callers during the course of today’s action.
Defensively, linebacker Jarkevis Fields and defensive end LeBrandon Richardson paced the Cats with 10 tackles apiece last week. Defensive tackle Tevin Toney proved to be a disruptive force in the interior adding 7 tackles of his own including 2 tackles-for-loss. The Wildcat defense should have little trouble in establishing a new line of scrimmage and pressuring the VUU attack.
Hidden Yards Kudos
Perhaps an “under the radar” bright spot from last week’s contest were the BCU return units. Freshman kick returner Darian Baker averaged 35.5 yards per kick return (long of 41) and Preston Cleckley averaged over 20 yards per punt return (long of 34) in last week’s matchup. It was a small sampling but so far, so good in the all-important “hidden yards” department. Another “hidden yards” category in which BCU thrived in week one was the penalty department. The Wildcats limited themselves to just 5 penalties for 35 yards. Let’s hope BCU continue to show improvement in these “hidden yards” categories in this game and throughout the course of the season.
We have been hearing great things about BCU’s new and improved cheerleading squad. The cheer squad is now under the direction of Becky and John Woodson and will consist of 30 members and 4 alternates. The Wildcat cheer squad recently collected a second place finish in ‘fight song cheer’, fourth place finish in ‘sideline cheer’, and were 4th overall in the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) camp in Philadelphia. We are looking forward to seeing the results of the hard work and dedication of the revamped cheer squad.
We are also excited to see the new, more energized and better organized student-led cheer section known as the “Wildcat Crazies”. Face-paint, body suits, and organized pandemonium, let’s see what you Crazy-Cats have in store for us this season.