NORFOLK, Va. – Bethune-Cookman’s defense scored two fourth-quarter safeties and held Norfolk State to 67 total yards as the No. 18/20 Wildcats took a 13-7 victory over the Spartans Thursday in a nationally televised ESPNU contest.
It was the 800th victory in program history and helped the Wildcats (7-2 overall, 5-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) remain atop the jumbled MEAC leaderboard. Three other teams – Morgan State, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State – also have one conference loss.
Rony Barrow registered both safeties for the Wildcats defense, who allowed only three Spartan first downs in a match-up of two of the nation’s top FCS defensive units.
“When your defense scores, it puts you in a position to win,” said B-CU Head Coach Brian Jenkins. “Our defense bowed their neck and stood their ground tonight. You saw two well-coached defensive teams. We just were able to make more plays tonight. When you only give up  total yards, I really don’t have to say anything. ”
For the second straight week and fourth time this season, the Wildcats won when they trailed after three quarters.
“we drill our kids on not getting rattled and playing a complete game,” Jenkins said. “When we didn’t have some success on offense early, we stayed in the moment and prepared for the next moment to come. They played four quarters of football.”
Barrow and Ty’re Simmons gave the Wildcats an 8-7 lead with 14:36 remaining when he tackled Norfolk State running back Aaron Daniels in the end zone for a safety. Punter Jonathan Cagle set up the score with a 57-yard punt that the Spartans mishandled deep in their own territory.
After the free kick, Bethune-Cookman increased its lead to 11-7 on a 24-yard Ben Noboa field goal. A 29-yard Quentin Williams completion to tight end Justin Henderson on third down kept the drive alive.
Cagle and Barrow came up big again in the game’s final 90 seconds.
A 37-yard Cagle punt pinned the Spartans at their own one-yard line. On the first play, Barrow and David Perry sacked Spartans quarterback Terrance Ervin for the safety with 1:21 to play.
“Cagle’s a vet at this thing,” Jenkins said. “He knows how to adjust different things — his drops and positioning the ball to get a good kick.”
Bethune-Cookman recovered the ensuing onside kickoff and ran out the clock for the victory.
Williams threw for 83 yards and rushed for 44, but the Wildcat offense gave up three turnovers and failed to punch ball in twice inside the Spartan red zone.
Norfolk State (4-6,4-2) capitalized on the first Wildcat mistake, needing only 45 to drive after an interception. Ervin hit Chris Lee for a 16-yard score with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter.
The Wildcats pulled to 7-6 with 8:16 remaining in the half when Williams connected with Jhomo Gordon on a 23-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play, but the PAT went wide left.
In the third quarter, B-CU got the ball on the Spartan 5-yard line after a blocked punt, but came up empty after a missed field goal.
Michael Jones had 50 yards for the Wildcats while Jaime Wilson had a 26-yard one-handed catch in the fourth quarter that was trending on ESPN for a spot on SportsCenters Top Ten Plays.
“Funny thing about that is that every day in practice, we’re yelling at Jaime `Two hand, two hands’ and then he comes in the game and does that one-handed catch,” Jenkins said. “It shows you our guys were into the game from beginning to end and wanted to make a play when they had an opportunity.”
Ralph Williams led the defensive totals with 13 tackles and a sack.
The Wildcats return to Virginia next Thursday for another ESPNU contest, this one at Hampton with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Courtesy: B-CU Athletics