In most instances, teams typically schedule inferior opponents for homecoming to ensure they give the fans and alumni coming back to the university for that weekend a great show and a homecoming win. Bethune-Cookman has decided to take the road less traveled, scheduling arguably their toughest opponent this season. Because of that, their homecoming contest has also become their most important game of the year.
Saturday at 4PM, the 14th ranked (SportsNetwork) B-CU Wildcats will take on co-conference leader South Carolina State at Municipal Stadium in a game that is being billed as the de facto Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. While there are a number of games left on the schedule to be played, the magnitude of this game is certainly not lost on head coach Brian Jenkins.
“It’s gonna be a barnburner, it’s gonna be a good one, I’ll tell you that, Jenkins said. You’ve got two good teams that are hungry that are ready to line up and play each other.”
This is the second time in 10 years the Wildcats and Bulldogs will square off against each other this late in the year, as the game is historically played around the second or third week of the season. The last time the game was played in October was Jenkins’ first season as head coach where he upset the Bulldogs 14-0 in Oliver C. Dawson Stadium, en route to his first conference title and playoff appearance. Asked what his feelings were about playing this game this late in the year rather than in the beginning of the season, Jenkins said, “when we play them doesn’t matter, we still have to line up and play football, said Jenkins. We’re just looking forward to it.”
This game pits the two winningest programs in the MEAC over the past 5 years who have accounted for four of five football championships since 2008. Couple that with what is expected to be the largest homecoming crowd in recent memory for B-CU and fans and supporters can expect an electric, playoff type atmosphere at Municipal Stadium on Saturday.
“The one thing I tell our guys is to stay in the moment. All the homecoming activities are not factors in the outcome of the game so don’t make them matter.”
Since Jenkins has taken over the reins of the Wildcat program, he’s won two of three over Pough in head to head contests. Because of the success of both programs in that time, this game has developed into the annual must-see MEAC game of the season.
“I think you have two competitive teams that are aggressive and wanna win, and that’s what’s made it special, said Jenkins. We came in as the new group (in 2010) and were able to knock them off and I think when we beat them that made everybody take notice of what we were doing, including them. That and just the continuation of the battle of the two teams and what they’ve been have just made every other game that more special.”
Leading the offensive attack for the Wildcats will be the quarterback trio, (or “The 3 W’s” as Pough refers to them) of Quentin Williams, Jackie Wilson and Brodrick Waters. Through seven games, Williams has been the best of the three, completing 66.4% (36-54) of his passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
B-CU’s quarterbacks are faced with the arduous task of performing against the top-ranked defense in the MEAC in South Carolina State, led by junior defensive lineman Andrew Carter, who has amassed a league-leading 8.5 sacks in seven games. Linebacker Joe Thomas leads the linebacker corps, while Stephen Murphy and Darius Drummond are the standouts of a secondary that leads the conference in defensive pass efficiency.
“Our quarterbacks have faced tough defenses before, Jenkins said. As long as they go out and do what they’re coached to do and continue to prepare, they’ll be fine. I think they’re style of play will improve and get better and better as the season goes.”
For South Carolina State, the Bulldogs offense is led by senior quarterback Richard Cue, who is having a nice bounce back season after a disappointing 2012 campaign. Through seven games, the Florence, SC native has connected on 56% of his passes for 1,067 yards with eight TD passes and just four interceptions. His favorite target this season has been wideout Tyler McDonald, who leads the conference in receiving yards (606), receiving yards per game (86.6), touchdowns (5), and yards per reception (22.4).
Rounding out the Bulldog offense are their runningbacks, which have been a staple of SCSU football for many years. Throughout the season, Pough has used six different backs, led by freshman Justin Taylor. The transfer from the University of Kentucky has rushed for 356 yards on 43 attempts and scored five touchdowns. Of the six runningbacks that have been used this season, the Wildcats could see as much as five of them on Saturday as they have all seen significant playing time this season.
Tickets are still available for Saturday’s 4PM showdown. To purchase tickets, log onto Ticketmaster or call the B-CU Ticket office at (386) 481-2465.