Fresh off the bye week, Alabama State (2-1, 1-0) handed Bethune-Cookman (0-4, 0-2) its second loss in the SWAC in as many weeks. The Hornets stung the Wildcats repeatedly in the first half before finishing off the newcomers 38-24 in front of the home crowd in Montgomery, Alabama.
Expectations were high for the visitors from Ms. Mary’s school in Daytona Beach. The Wildcats took defending SWAC champion Alabama A&M to task last week with a 27-point performance.
Bama State enjoyed a much-needed week off after catching a 62-0 thumping up the road in Auburn. Head coach Dr. Donald Hill-Eley welcomed the break. “With an FBS opponent (like Auburn), we needed those 14 days to recover,” said Hill-Eley. “We don’t get those 14 days; you’re probably looking at a different outcome than what we had tonight.”
The rested Hornets got off to a great start scoring three touchdowns on three possessions in the first 15 minutes and three seconds. Junior defensive lineman Brandon Gaddy’s hit on Wildcats quarterback Shannon Patrick caused a fumble that was scooped up by senior defensive lineman Joshua Long. Long eyed the end zone but was brought down at the Bethune-Cookman 26 by running back Que’Shuan Byrd.
Head Coach Terry Sims’ squad hung tough with a 17-point first-half performance. The Wildcats capitalized on punt returner Robert McMinn’s attempted over-the-shoulder catch. McMinn’s fumble was recovered by Darnell Deas at the Hornets’ 14. Jimmie Robinson, III punched it in from 4 yards out for the Wildcats’ first score of the game.
BCU added another 10 points in the second quarter. The offense bogged down after driving 69 yards from their 18.
Robinson added his second rushing touchdown a series later. Darryl Powell, Jr made a tough acrobatic catch at the 5-yard line with Hornets DB James Burgess hanging all over him. The resulting touchdown closed the gap to 17-21.
Ryan Nettles led the Hornets’ offense right back down the field for another touchdown. The Wildcats’ defense couldn’t get off the field. Nettles victimized the secondary again with a 13-yard pass to Keron Jones on third and six at midfield. The slant route gave the Wildcats trouble all day long. Eight different receivers had receptions for 267 yards.
“We did not play well again defensively and we did not make the plays offensively that we should have,” said Wildcats head coach Terry Sims.
Senior tight end Kemari Averett was the lone exception to the comment. The 6’6” transfer from Louisville looked like a cheat code making tough catches and running through tackles. His acrobatic touchdown reception in the fourth quarter cut the Hornets’ lead to 14 with 8 minutes still to play.
The Wildcats’ defense gave the burgundy and gold hope limiting the Hornets to 3-and-out on the ensuing series. The light of hope dimmed as the Wildcats’ offense continued to sputter and shoot itself in the foot on its next two offensive possessions. BCU gained 1 yard on 4 downs before handing the ball back to the Hornets’ offense.
Once again the defense stood up and held the Hornets’ offense to 2 yards to give the ball back to the offense. A big reception by Averett moved the ball to near midfield. Facing third and 10, Patrick found senior Jonathon Thomas for a 15-yard gain. While struggling for a few more yards, Hornets DB Keenan Isaac ripped the ball from the receiver’s arms and into the waiting hands of fellow DB Irshaad Davis to seal the game.
Bethune-Cookman gets a break from SWAC opponents next week. They will travel to Orangeburg, SC to take on the South Carolina State Bulldogs from the MEAC. Alabama State looks to add another conference newcomer to their hit list when they head to Tallahassee to meet up with the Rattlers of Florida A&M.
Big Time Players
Kemari Averett had nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown. The big tight end from Midtown HS in Atlanta had 68 yards after the catch.
Linebacker Tekeven Thomas led all Wildcat defenders with 9 tackles, 3 tackles for -11 yards, one sack, and an interception
Brandon Gaddy (Virginia Beach, Va.) led Alabama State in tackles with six. He also added a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Irshaad Davis (Carol City, Fla.) added a fumble recovery and an interception, while also recording five tackles.
Jeremiah Hixon led Alabama State with seven receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. The total was just one catch short of a career-high that Hixon recorded against Tuskegee in 2018 (8-116).
Game Photo Gallery
All photos credit Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports