Coming off a stunning loss to Lane College in the John Merritt Classic, Tennessee State hobbles into its homecoming matchup with Bethune-Cookman.
TSU starting quarterback Draylen Ellis missed the Merritt Classic with an ankle injury that happened in the second quarter of the team’s 49-6 loss at Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 17.
In his absence, the Tigers’ passing attack was anemic, only producing 118 yards. His replacement, Auburn transfer Chayhil Garnett, only threw for 39 yards and contributed 14 points to the Lane cause via two turnovers.
After getting the hook for the second half, sophomore signal-caller Edwin Rhodes III was a bit more productive. He completed six of his ten passes for 68 yards. He threw no touchdowns but he did not commit any turnovers, either.
Bethune-Cookman (1-3, 1-1 SWAC) enters the contest coming off a 35-27 loss to Alabama A&M last Saturday. Jalen Jones, who Wildcats head coach Terry Sims said was solid but not great this week, completed 24 of 38 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown. B-CU had four receivers — Kemari Averett, Dylan Lee, Corey Reed and Daveno Ellington compile 60 or more yards.
The issues for Bethune resided on the defensive side, specifically their inability to stop the run as the Bulldogs piled up a gaudy 288 yards on the ground. SWAC Offensive Player of the Week Donovan Eaglin had a field day against the Wildcats’ defense, rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Why Tennessee State will win:
While numbers don’t always tell the whole story, they can highlight trends. The number of key importance is 242.8.
That is the number of rushing yards Bethune- Cookman surrenders per game. B-CU has allowed every opponent to rush for at least 200 yards with the lone exception of Grambling, which ran for 174 yards.
The Wildcats’ inability to deal with the run will play right into Tennessee State’s hands. Whether or not they have the services of Ellis and running back Devon Starling, TSU will have to exploit this clear weakness in the Bethune-Cookman defense.
If Starling cannot go or is still slightly hampered, Jalen Rouse showed he is more than capable of shouldering that load as evidenced by rushing ran for 109 yards and a touchdown against Lane.
Why Bethune-Cookman will win:
Jalon Jones will display more of the form he showed against Grambling when he threw for 137 yds and 2 TD in the Wildcats’ lone win of the season. Tennesse State only has seven sacks on the season, so Jones should have the time he needs to survey the field and find receivers.
Bethune Cookman 13
Tennessee State 27