It would have been hard to envision the Bethune-Cookman football team getting off to a worse start last season.
After the Wildcats’ opener against Alcorn State was called off in the second quarter because of severe weather in Daytona Beach, B-CU dropped its next four games.
For a team that had won an unprecedented five Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles in a span of six years, going into its game against Norfolk State on Oct. 22 at 0-4 was tough to deal with.
Injuries to a number of key players were a major factor.
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“You can’t really wipe it clean because you have to take what happened and learn from it,” said third-year coach Terry Sims, whose team beat Norfolk State 21-14 and ended up winning four of its final five — including a 39-19 victory over rival FAMU in the annual Florida Classic — to end the year 4-6.
“We had a season filled with injuries, a lot of things happened beyond our control. We have to learn to take advantage of opportunities when we have them.”
The theme this season is “Resurge.”
Players and coaches all wear T-shirts with that simple message.
Although a 4-6 season was a disappointment at a program known for its winning ways, Sims said the experience his team gained going through the dark times could benefit them this year.
Sims says he has a three-way battle at quarterback led by returning players Larry Brihm and Akevious Williams as well as transfer Collyn Anderson.
“I have really been pleased with our camp, the way guys have been working,” Sims said. “I’m pleased with the effort, everyone is running around like we understand what we need to do and how we need to get it done.”
As Bethune-Cookman looks to bounce back from last season, the early going will not be easy.
Last year, the Wildcats lost to the Sun Belt’s North Texas in its lone game against teams from a Group of Five conference.
This campaign, Bethune-Cookman opens up in Miami Gardens as the Wildcats visit the Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast nationally through the ACC Network and gives Bethune-Cookman not only a nice chance in the spotlight but also it will be a reunion for all the many South Florida players on the BC-U roster.
“Playing Miami is always big for our guys because we do have so many from South Florida,” Sims said. “We’re going to attack this thing like any other game. Some will say ‘yeah, right,’ but we have to. We’re playing a tough opponent, but you have to worry about yourself first-and-foremost, make sure we’re doing all the right things.”
After visiting Southeastern Louisiana in Week 2, the Wildcats come back to South Florida to visit FAU on Sept. 16.
The Wildcats play their first four games on the road before finally playing their first game in Daytona on Sept. 30 against Savannah State.
Bethune-Cookman plays four of its 11 games at home and will try to extend its winning streak over FAMU to seven games at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Nov. 18.
The Wildcats’ six-game winning streak over the Rattlers is longest in school history.
“We played a lot of inexperienced players last year and now they know what they have to do,” Sims said. “That should really help up this year.”
Résumé: Head coach: Bethune-Cookman University (3rd season); Assistant coach: Bethune-Cookman University (2010-14); Howard University (2006-09); Louisiana-Lafayette (2004-05); Prairie View A&M (2003); Texas Southern (2000-02); Austin Peay (1999-97); Louisville (1995-96); Knoxville College (1994).
▪ Career highlights: During his rookie season as a head coach in 2015, Sims continued the positive success enjoyed by Bethune-Cookman with the school’s fourth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title. He led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record in his first season and a 7-1 mark, including a share of the MEAC title.
▪ What keeps Terry up at night: The Wildcats ended last season with a losing record, and another season under the .500 mark won’t make for a happy year in Daytona Beach.