BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The two top teams in Black college football squared with Tennessee State walking away with a 21-14 win over Bethune-Cookman.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in all the HBCU polls while Tennessee State was ranked second in three and tied for third in another.
Tennessee State (4-0) led 14-0 after a pair of Travis Ward touchdown runs in the first and second quarter.
“We dug ourselves into a hole and it came back to bite us in the butt in the end. I am very frustrated.
I hate losing and hate is a strong word. Hats off to Tennessee State – it is a very good football team.
We just made too many mistakes and did a poor job executing,” said Brian Jenkins, head football coach.
No big comeback
Bethune-Cookman looked liked they would get a boost when D.J. Howard intercepted a Michael German pass.
“They were hurting us with underneath passes early on. They only had one long pass the entire game. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t fix. On the interception, we were in cover three and as the underneath safety I cover the flats. The ball was thrown right at me,” responded Howard.
On the ensuing drive, Sven Hurd’s 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Antonio Harper and Daniel Fitzpatrick scooped up the ball and went 40 yards for a score giving Tennessee a 21-0 lead.
B-CU had rallied from deficits of 21 points to Alabama State and 14 to South Carolina State to win games earlier this season but couldn’t against Tennessee State.
Louisiana Tech transfer Broderick Waters got his first start at quarterback but failed to produce a scoring drive. He had 53 total yards (41 rushing) and was replaced by Quentin Williams.
The Wildcats scored twice within a 37 second span late in the second quarter to get within 21-14.
Williams entered the game and found Presley Cleckley, who went up to grab a touchdown pass and LaBrandon Richardson returned a fumble for a score.
Both teams had several opportunities in the second half but failed to score.
“Right now this entire team is a question mark. We have to evaluate everything. I will start with myself and not put it all on the players,” said Jenkins.
Ward ran for 154 yards with two touchdowns including 118 yards in the first half for while German threw for 157 yards for the Tigers.
Williams finished 116 total yards (75 passing, 41 rushing) for B-CU.
“I think I played OK but left a lot of plays on the field. I have to learn and grow with the rest of my teammates,” added Williams.
Isidore Jackson added 82 total yards (65 rushing) and Rodney Scott ran for 53 yards for B-CU.
A.C. Leonard added three catches for 101 yards and Travis James four for 45 yards for TSU.
New Smyrna Beach alumnus Telvin Hooks also ran for 67 yards for the Tigers.
The Wildcats were led defensively by Jarkevis Fields who tallied 14 total tackles, Richardson who had nine tackles with two fumble recoveries and Nesley Marcellon nine tackles for B-CU.
The Tigers outgained the Wildcats 357-287 in total offensive yardage. Both teams combined for 17 penalties for 177 yards.
The Wildcats return to MEAC action as they hit the road to face Hampton (0-3, 0-1) on Sept. 29.
They return home for homecoming against MEAC opponent North Carolina A&T (2-1, 0-0) on Oct. 6.
Eddie Poole extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 27.
Waters got his first start at quarterback for the Wildcats.
Williams’ touchdown pass to Cleckley was the first for both players. Cleckley had his first career touchdown reception and Williams threw his first career touchdown pass.
Jackie Wilson, who started the first three games at quarterback, was available but didn’t play.
Analysis of game
Bethune-Cookman lost the game for several reasons. First, the Wildcats were beat upfront on both sides of the football. They didn’t register a sack and allowed four sacks.
Secondly, they failed to capitalize on opportunities. After a Tennessee fumble, the Wildcats missed a field goal and after TSU threw an interception, B-CU had a field goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown.
B-CU scored only seven points off three TSU turnovers and was 0-for-3 on fourth downs. The Wildcats also couldn’t throw the ball with both Williams and Waters combining on 13-for-26 passes for 87 yards.