Our 2019 Game Previews, we come to the annual (and recently highly debated) HBCU buy-game against Bethune Cookman University.
Typically, Miami has started seasons with their HBCU/FCS opponent. But, that’s changing. Miami opened the 2018 season against LSU, plays their first 2 games against Florida and North Carolina this season, and has other marquee games on the books in the near future, most notably a season-opening tilt against the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide in 2021.
But that’s in the medium to distant future. Let’s talk about this season.
Unlike the other HBCUs that Miami rotates for the annual buy-game — Florida A&M and Savannah State in recent years — Bethune Cookman comes into 2019 after a winning season in 2018. The Wildcats were 7-5 in 2018, and that included several 1-possession losses. They’re one of the pluckier FCS teams around, and easily in the top third of HBCU programs, so they could score a few points in this game, but they’ll still lose.
The Wildcats are led by Head Coach Terry Sims, who is entering his 4th year at the helm. Sims previously spent 5 years as an assistant withe the Wildcats prior to being elevated to Head Coach. Sims has compiled an 18-16 record in 3 years as Bethune Cookman’s Head Coach, but has earned 14 of those wins in the last 2 years, so things are heading in a positive direction, it seems.
I’m not going to dig too much into the names for Bethune, because they don’t really matter in this preview, but I will say that the Wildcats ran for nearly 2400 yards last year, and were much more efficient and explosive there than they were passing. Wildcat QBs (3 played marginal to significant snaps last year) completed 57.2% of their throws with a 16-14 TD-INT ratio.
The Wildcats were also able to change the scoreboard on special teams. Returning WR Jimmie Robinson had 3 KR-TDs, and RB Que’shon Byrd also had a KR-TD in 2018. So there’s some speed on the roster for sure.
Bethune Cookman’s defense was hit or miss in 2018. While the Wildcats held 4 opponents under 28 points, they also gave up over 40 points on 4 occasions. Yes, 2 of those were against the 2 FBS teams Betune Cookman faced in 2018 — FAU and Nebraska — but the point remains. Feast or famine for the defense.
Again, I’m not going to dig deep into the names on defense, because they largely don’t matter. Bethune might be able to combat Miami’s varied and explosive offense (at least in terms of athleticism and ability since we haven’t actually seen Dan Enos’s scheme yet) for a while, and might even be able to force a punt or three or a turnover or two, but there isn’t any reasonable or realistic scenario in which Bethune Cookman is going to beat Miami in football. There just isn’t.
Over the past 4 seasons, Bethune Cookman has lost to their FBS opponents (Miami twice, FAU twice, UNT, and Nebraska) but an average score of 44.3 to 11.67. And, the VAST MAJORITY of the points they’ve scored against FBS competition in that time came in 2 games: 28 vs FAU in 2018 and 20 vs UNT in 2016. That’s 48 of the 70 total points against FBS competition in 2 games. Yeah.
In addition, Bethune Cookman found a way to lose to arguably the worst HBCU team around: intermittent Miami opponent Savannah State. The same Savannah State that has lost it’s games against FBS competition by an AVERAGE of 8 TDs per game found a way to beat Bethune 16-10 in Coach Sims’ first year at the helm of the Wildcats. Please, please don’t talk to me about there being a real chance Miami loses to this team.
Now, there are a couple other things worth noting about this game against Bethune Cookman. First, the overwhelming majority of players on the Wildcats’ roster are from Florida. At quick glance, I only noticed a literal handful of players from other place. So that means a lot of guys on this team will have played with or against many UM players in high school. There are plenty of local kids from Palm Beach or Broward or Dade counties who are coming back home and looking to put on a show against Miami.
I even saw that a former Miami recruiting target — CB Henry Miller — is now at Bethune. He committed to Pittsburgh over Miami 3 years ago, but obviously that didn’t work out for him. Other fringe level recruits, guys like WR Keavon Mitchell from Flanagan and Torian Williams from Dillard, are also returning home to SoFLA and would love nothing better than to make some plays against the Canes.
The second item worth mentioning is Bethune Cookman’s robust alumni base in South Florida. There a great many BCU alums who call SoFLA home, and they have and will show up in droves for this game. They mix in well with Canes fans, so it won’t be like when that other team that wears maroon and yellow (or whatever they call it) comes down for a game against Miami.
The third, and arguably biggest, thing worth mentioning is the Bethune Cookman Marching Band. Known as one of the best (and THE BEST in the estimation of some) HBCU Band around, the Marching Wildcats will make the trek down to Hard Rock Stadium and put on a show. They play early and often throughout the game, and their halftime shows are often THE REASON people, alumni or otherwise, go to the games. There’s even a Netflix show about the BCU Marching Band (it’s called “Marching Orders” and yes it’s still up if you want to watch it).
What I’m saying is they’re pretty good.
So there you have it. A team with a bunch of Florida athletes and solid coaching is coming to Hard Rock Stadium to face Miami in week 3. But, in typical fashion when up against HBCU competition, expect the Canes to win handily, and score 40-50+ points in the process.