Karsceal Turner – I Got NEXT!
It took three quarters, a great deal of field laundry known as flags, and some hard-nosed defense on both sides but the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats, led by Quentin Williams, who scored on a 3-yard run with 5:14 remaining to give Bethune-Cookman a 17-14 victory over South Carolina State on Thursday night before a Municipal Stadium “Blackout” crowd of 7,465 and a national ESPNU audience.
Regardless of what you’ve seen to this point, B-CU is sporting a shiny 3-0 record and sit atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), all by themselves. The Wildcats (5-1 overall, 3-0 MEAC) are undefeated at home and for the moment, control their own destinies. As in previous title runs and defenses, a main obstacle was presented when the South Carolina State Bulldogs, who regularly fields top-notch defenses and an arsenal of offensive weapons, descended on Daytona Beach in time for “The Blackout”. B-CU faithful were clad in all Black, the game was witnessed by a national ESPNU audience.
The Bulldogs were in search of higher ground as they traveled down I-95 South from Orangeburg. The state of South Carolina suffered massive flooding resulting from hurricane Joaquin, which skirted up the southeast coast a week ago. As could be expected, their fans and band were also in tow.
A moving moment was when B-CU announcer Isadore Williams unified all in attendance by asking the B-CU fans to give a standing ovation to the opponents clad in Garnet and Blue, from across Larry Kelly field. The gesture of support was outstanding, truly a kumbaya moment.
Defense and penalties ruled first half
SCSU literally shot themselves in the foot early on with consecutive (6) false start penalties in the first half. Each time I set up to shoot a picture, I had to hold up because of a false start penalty. When the Bulldogs were forced to punt, I saw the quarterback giving his offensive line the business on the sidelines. Rightfully so, they really were making a mess of things and the Wildcats made them pay for it.
Bethune-Cookman settled for a 3-0 lead on Uriel Hernandez’s 32-yard field goal in the opening period.
The defensive battle continued after B-CUs Ja-Quan Lumas caught a 2-yard pass from Quentin Williams in the third quarter, one could feel a sense of urgency emitting from the SCSU faithful up until Antonio Hamilton gave them life with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead at the 10:43 mark in the fourth quarter. This set up William’s heroics.
South Carolina State (2-3, 1-1 MEAC) had the final possession and advanced from its own 7 to its own 42. But pass breakups by Trenton Bridges and Elliott Miller helped the Wildcats regain possession and run out the clock.
“We had to be the smarter football team tonight. That was our final part of the game plan, and limit our mistakes and penalties.” Head Coach Terry Sims said. “We knew it was going to be a tough ball game and come down to the wire. “It’s a big win and we’ll enjoy it but we have to get ready for North Carolina A&T,” he added.
Besides the legions of Wildcat fans adorned in Black with hints of Maroon and Gold, where at least half a dozen Pop Warner teams in attendance, two of which had the opportunity of playing on the same field as the big boys. It was exhilarating to say the least. As I stated earlier, SCSU brought not only their team but bus and car loads of fans (some of whom I personally heckled), and their band the “Marching 101”, complete with their auxiliary dancers “The Ladies of Champagne”.
Although I had jokes when they arrived, SCSU put on a good show, not a whole lot of playing (because there weren’t nearly 101 members on the field), but their formations were on point. I thoroughly enjoyed the wannabe 14 Carat Gold Dancers but nothing compares to the best. The often imitated, never duplicated, Marching Pride of Bethune Cookman, blew our minds and blew the 101 off the field. Excuse me for boasting. Kudos to Mr. Wells and his staff for a job well done….again.
Some implications to-date for you to marinate on
Last year, there was a five-way tie among teams with two losses, this is why the conference championship had to be shared. Shout out to those two Wildcat teams 1984, and 2002, who won outright championships. There was less parity back in the day.
Presently, Bethune-Cookman is in the driver’s seat with three conference contests remaining. As Coach Sims stated, North Carolina A&T is next as Bethune leaves dry ground and travels to the Carolinas for a matchup with yet another team of dogs, this time it’s the Aggies and the atmosphere will be menacing. NCA&T is 1-0 in conference play. Coming up for homecoming is a battle with the Norfolk State Spartans, who are coached by former Wildcat defensive coordinator now Head coach Pete Adrian and always brings the ruckus to Daytona Beach. That game will be emotional as Coach Adrian leads his team in the aftermath of the death of his son Zach, who played for then B-CC from 98-01, and recently passed away after a battle with cancer. Believe that the Spartans, who love their coach would love to spoil homecoming, derail B-CU, and honor their leader. After homecoming the Morgan State Bears come to town. The Bears sport a 2-0 record too but would also love to come into the den and steal a win. Another road trip follows Homecoming as the Cats travel to Dover Delaware for a Halloween showdown with the Delaware State Hornets. DSU is 0-1 in MEAC play but are still embarrassed about losing to D-II Chowan at home. A win against B-CU at home would comforting to them to say the least.
Last but not least on the rounding out the schedule is that school from up on the hill. Florida A&M is 0-2 in conference play, 0-5 overall. I’ll just leave that right there for a moment but their record is significant because games against B-CU represent a very old, very ugly rivalry, hence a gritty battle every year. Check out the FAMU vs. B-CU Trash talking group on Facebook if you want to chip in your two cents. As a point of reference to how serious this game is, I recall a B-CU team that was undefeated in conference play but lost to Florida A&M in the Florida Classic. It’s still a little early for Classic talk with all the games leading to it.
That doesn’t keep the Wildcat Nation from talking about it.