It was hard to tell who Bethune-Cookman was through the first three quarters of its game with North Carolina Central—and it wasn’t because of the heavy rain that pelted O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on Saturday.
You see, Bethune-Cookman is a physical, smash-mouth team. They have become the bullies of the MEAC over the past half decade or so. Hard-hitting, fast-punching, ground-and-pound, that’s their MO.
But for much of the game, the Eagles were the aggressor, while the Wildcats appeared to be on their heels in the precipitation-soaked field in Durham. Through three quarters, it was the Eagles who imposed their will via the running game, as Dorrell McClain and his teammates ran through the line like no back has done against the Daytona-based squad since the last days of the Alvin Wyatt regime.
NCCU ran for 324 yards, something that probably hasn’t happened against Bethune-Cookman by a non-FBS team in forever. Midway through the third quarter, NCCU had put up 20 unanswered points to take a 26-7 lead at home. BCU looked like it was about to fly south with a loss.
“North Carolina Central is always a physical team. They’re always prepared, and they played hard,” BCU coach Terry Sims told HBCU Gameday. “We knew we were going to have to bring our “A” game.”
Then it happened. BCU remembered it was BCU, and clawed its way back in the game. But not with its trademark, run heavy offense. No, this time, it relied on the passing game to mount its comeback. It started when Quentin Williams hit JaWill Davis for the first of two touchdown passes he would throw on the day. That cut the lead to 28-14 with under a minute to go.
The game’s turning point, however, would come with just over a second left in the third quarter as Ty’re Simmons picked off his second Malcolm Bell pass to give his team new life heading into the fourth quarter.
“If you look at Tyree Simmons on paper, you’ll say he shouldn’t be on the field,” Sims said. “He’s 5’8, 175 pounds, but he’s one of the toughest football players I’ve ever coached. He’s a smart guy, he’s a coach on the field, and he made a play when we needed him to.”
BCU took to the air again, with Williams displaying the cool you’d expect from a redshirt senior, leading his team on back-to-back scoring drives, hitting Davis for another touchdown and setting up a Michael Jones touchdown run to give his team a 28-26 lead. Williams threw for 248 yards, including two scores to Davis.
That slim lead proved to be the margin of victory as the BCU defense kept NCCU out of the endzone, and blocked the game-winning field goal attempt to remain 2-0 in the MEAC.
Like the team’s wins over Grambling State (56-53) and Lane (7-3) it may not have been the most comfortable win, but it’s one BCU was able to come away with.
“That’s just what’s happening right now,” Sims said after the game, “but I’ll take the win any way I can get it.”
Now that’s the Bethune-Cookman we know.