ORANGEBURG, SC—The annual Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference showdown between Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State has turned into one of the more intriguing conference matchups in the last 10 years. In that time, former Wildcat coach Alvin Wyatt and current head coach Brian Jenkins have been forced to match wits with Bulldog head coach Buddy Pough. This year’s installment of the budding rivalry will be played in the hostile confines of Oliver C. Dawson Stadium at Willie Jeffries field in Orangeburg, SC. The last time the Wildcats invaded the Garden City, current graduate assistant and quarterbacks coach Matt Johnson led B-CU to a stunning 14-0 victory over the Bulldogs en route to a 10-1 regular season and MEAC co-Championship.
The storylines for this year’s game is eerily similar to that of 2010. Backup quarterback Brock Waters looked impressive in his Wildcat debut, leading the Cats to a 38-28 come from behind victory over Alabama State in the 8th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge. In the same breath, South Carolina State quarterback Richard Cue had his best statistical game of his career, passing for 300 yards and 3 scores in a 33-6 win over Georgia State. Bethune-Cookman comes into the game playing the role as underdog, while the Bulldogs appear to be the favorites leading up to the 6pm showdown.
Both of these teams come into the game pretty much evenly matched. For the last 3 years, both teams have consistently been the two elite teams in the conference. For both teams, limiting mistakes and playing sound fundamental football will yield success. More specifically, here are my keys to the game for the Wildcats to come away with a victory in Orangeburg:
WIN TURNOVER BATTLE:
The Cats must be able to limit their mistakes against this Bulldog defense. Last year, the Wildcats lost the turnover battle to the Bulldogs, none more crucial than a Jamarr Robinson pass that was intercepted by SCSU’s Dominique Ellis who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a deciding 26-18 lead late in the fourth quarter.
GROUND AND POUND:
B-CU made history last Sunday against Alabama State, having three rushers go over the century mark for the first time in school history (Jackson-123, Scott-103, Waters-100). A season ago, Bethune-Cookman enjoyed similar success running the football against the South Carolina State defense. In addition, the Bulldogs had trouble in stretches of their season opener against Georgia State stopping the run of Donald Russell who ran for 122 yards on 12 carries. If the Cats can effectively run the ball against the Bulldog defense and control the clock, they can keep SCSU’s quick strike offense off the field.
Head Coach Brian Jenkins made it perfectly clear during his MEAC Weekly teleconference this week that special teams was one of the major reasons the Bulldogs were able to escape from Daytona Beach last season with a victory. SCSU boasts an FCS All-American nominee in DB Darius Drummond who set up two Bulldog scores in the 2011 contest. If Wildcat punter Cory Kowalski can keep the ball out of Drummond’s hand and play the field position game accurately, it will increase the Cats chances of winning the ballgame.
IN GAME ADJUSTMENTS:
After Alabama State jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead, head coach Brian Jenkins was able to make in-game adjustments to slow down the Hornet attack enough to allow his Cats to get back into the game and eventually take the lead for good. While ASU’s Reggie Barlow is a good coach, SCSU’s Pough is one of the best in the business and will come with a solid gameplan to have success against the Cats early and often. If Jenkins can find a way to be able to make adjustments not only at halftime, but during the game, he should see the same dividends that were paid to him this past Sunday bear fruit tomorrow.
This really is a game that could potentially come down to whoever has the ball last. Both teams are evenly matched and conditioning won’t be a factor in this game as it was in the Alabama State game (SCSU’s humidity matches that of Daytona Beach). This one is going to come down to which team makes the least amount of mistakes. Waters looked good in his debut at quarterback, while SCSU’s Cue threw some ill-advised throws that could’ve cost the Bulldogs dearly had Georgia State capitalized on them. In addition, the road team has won eight of the last 12 meetings. Both Jenkins and Pough respect each other a heck of a lot, but there’s no love lost between the coaches. I expect a repeat performance of what we saw in 2010, with Brock Waters getting his first win of the season as a starter in a thrilling victory over the Bulldogs.
South Carolina State-27