It’s been a tale of two seasons for the newest members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
For Bethune-Cookman, a program not too far removed from knocking off FBS opponents and competing for MEAC championships is currently without a win through the first seven weeks of the regular season.
The Wildcats, who officially joined the SWAC in July, are also a disappointing 0-4 versus league opponents.
“I am surprised,” said BCU head coach Terry Sims about his Wildcats being unable to find its footing in the fall. “Not to take anything away from anyone, but I’ve said it every week that we’re beating us before we can allow anyone to beat us.”
In their four conference games so far, the Wildcats have put up 70 second-half points and outscored opponents by 22, but they’ve been unable to find a way to close.
There was a three-point loss to Alabama A&M in the home opener. That was followed up by consecutive one-score defeats to Mississippi Valley State on the final play of regulation two weeks ago before falling 35-29 to SWAC West leader Prairie View on Saturday.
While its record might suggest BCU is a bad football team, Sims would concede otherwise understanding that the Wildcats were a few plays away from altering its fortunes.
“I’m still not down on this football team,” he said. “These guys are still working, We just have to find a way to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and continue to make plays and make plays we’re supposed to make and finish football games.
“I’ve never been 0 and 7 in anything. But it’s time to not worry about that. We have to push forward and continue to do what we were doing and keep working hard.”
Just up the road in Tallahassee, Florida A&M — the prized league acquisition in the offseason — is off to a solid start, just one game back in the loss column of first-place Jackson State in the SWAC East standings.
The Rattlers’ only blemish in league play was a 7-6 loss to JSU in a defense-dominated Orange Blossom Classic.
They’ve had impressive wins against Alabama State and a dramatic fourth-quarter Houdini act on the road at Alabama A&M to keep its divisional championship hopes alive.
The road to this point hasn’t been easy with head coach Willie Simmons trying to sort out the quarterback situation between incumbent Resean McKay and true freshman Junior Muratovic, though each has contributed to a bit more consistency and success of the unit that’s averaged 31 points per game over the last three outings after averaging 19 during the first three contests.
The strength of the Rattlers lies with its defense, which leads the SWAC in total defense, defensive efficiency and is second in yards allowed per play.
Florida A&M will need to lean on all aspects of its roster as it enters a stretch that includes games against Grambling State, Southern, and Mississippi Valley State.
“We know we have to come to play every week,” said Simmons, who spent six years in the SWAC as an assistant and head coach. “Every week you have to play and that’s the hallmark of a strong conference where every week you have to bring your A-game.”