Bethune-Cookman takes control of the MEAC race by ending SC State's 21-game win streak
By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — It didn't bother No. 23-ranked Bethune-Cookman that its wins over Edward Waters, Savannah State, Norfolk State, Morgan State and Delaware State hadn't generated much respect on the national front.
The Wildcats had barely stirred a ripple in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with their 5-0 start and three-game winning streak in league play.
But facing MEAC heavyweight South Carolina State, it was Bethune-Cookman that delivered most of the body blows to snap the 21-game MEAC winning streak of the No. 10-ranked Bulldogs with a 14-0 victory.
“We kept swinging,” said Bethune-Cookman's first-year coach Brian Jenkins. “We tabbed this game a heavyweight fight and we said we were taking it 15 rounds, and if it would go 15, we’d be going toe-to-toe.”
The 10,077 fans at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium were stunned to see their Bulldogs (4-2, 2-1) get blanked for the first time since a 54-0 loss to Clemson in 2008 as the two-time defending MEAC champs committed six turnovers, four of them near, or in, the red zone.
"It was a very frustrating game," said SCSU quarterback Malcolm Long. "We have to do better on offense, and we need to sustain drive and protect the football."
Linebacker Ryan Lewis killed two Bulldog drives with fourth-quarter interceptions, the last one with three minutes left effectively ending SC State's hopes.
"I can't take credit for the interceptions," said Lewis. "The defensive line was getting pressure and I was just floating in the middle, looking to make a play."
A diving catch of by B-CU receiver Jevaugh Reams of a Matt Johnson throw for 38 yards set up the only score of the first half.
That was followed by an option pass — the Wildcats' first trick play of the season — from last year's starting quarterback Maurice Francois to Reams (five catches, 86 yards), who was wide open in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:51 left in the second quarter.
The pressure began to mount on SC State in the third period when the multi-faceted Johnson (15-of-26 for 172 yards passing) led the Wildcats on a 15-play, 90-yard drive that made it 14-0 midway through the quarter.
Pat Brown made a key first-down catch for 14 yards at the SCSU 17, but it looked like B-CU might come away from the drive empty handed when LaTaris Douglas sacked Matt Johnson on second down.
On third down, the Bulldogs almost earned another sack, but Johnson escaped pressure and found Jevaugh Reams open for 15 yards and another first down. Reams plowed down to the four to set up Androse Bell's one-yard plunge.
Bethune-Cookman missed a chance to extend its lead at the start of the fourth quarter when Brown's 72-yard punt return for a TD was called back for holding.
SC State had lost one score when a 68-yard connection between quarterback Malcolm Long (15-of-33, 141 yards, two interceptions) and wide receiver Lennel Elmore was called back for holding in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs lost another almost sure TD in the fourth period when backup quarterback Derrick Wiley, who had marched SCSU from its own 26 to the B-CU eight, lost the handle on the ball as he scrambled to the two with an open end zone in front of him and fumbled the ball out of bounds at the pylon.
“My assistants came up with a great game plan and I tell you what, the guys came out and executed it to the best of their abilities,” said Jenkins. “They put us in a very good position. It was a good family effort."
B-CU controlled the ball for 29 1/2 minutes and rang up a 319-264 advantage in total offense.
"We were not effective enough on offense," South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said. "They defended us well and did enough on offense to beat us. I take my hats off to them."
It is still early in the MEAC title chase, but the Wildcats now hold the advantage over the rest of the league, with their win in Orangeburg, which some B-CU personnel called the best road victory in school history.
"It's a humbling feeling right now," said Johnson. "It's a joyous moment, but we have to focus on another game next week. We just want to keep winning."