State Colleges

Bethune-Cookman looking for success in FCS playoffs

In three of his four years as coach at Bethune-Cookman University, Brian Jenkins’ teams have won at least a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship and the postseason berth that comes with it.

The Wildcats have yet to turn their conference success into a playoff victory.

Jenkins said it’s past due for that to change.

The Wildcats are 0-5 all-time in Football Championship Subdivision playoff games, and no team from the MEAC has won a postseason contest since Florida A&M beat Troy State in 1999.

“Enough is enough,” said Jenkins, a graduate of Fort Lauderdale Dillard whose Wildcats have gone 37-11 since he took over in 2010. “It’s time for us to start taking advantage of the opportunity and get a victory. It’s past time for us to get over that hump.

“The opportunities have been there, we’ve played teams I think we could beat. They’re good teams, but we play good football teams all year. It’s time to put away the excuses and just do it.”

Bethune-Cookman, which opens its season Saturday at FIU, lost some key players off last season’s 10-3 team that lost — for a second season in a row — to Coastal Carolina in the opening round of the playoffs.

South Carolina State, which shared the conference championship with B-CU last year, lost to Furman 30-20 in the playoffs.

The Wildcats, who beat FIU 34-13 last season, are trying to find replacements for All-Conference offensive linemen Alex Monroe and Rashard Brown, as well as linebacker Jarkevis Fields and running back Isidore Jackson.

Six players who return, including senior center Andrew Edouard, defensive lineman LeBrandon Richardson (Miami Central) and defensive back Marquis Drayton (North Broward Prep), were named to the All-MEAC preseason team.

Quarterback Quentin Williams returns for his senior year after throwing five touchdown passes and rushing for nine last season. He’s being pushed by redshirt freshman Larry Brihm for the starting job.

“I would like to be able to go out and find the kids we lost and bring them back because we need them,” said Jenkins, whose team was picked by league coaches and sports information directors to win the conference title again this year. “We’re a work in progress right now, but the young men are working hard to improve. That’s all you can ask for.

“I don’t know what kind of football team we’re going to have but our guys are competing every day. If we can do that consistently, we should have a good team. We lost a lot of guys and have some new faces, But they’re catching on.”

Schedule strength isn’t a concern for the Wildcats again this season as Jenkins has been working to get his team plenty of statewide exposure.

In the past, B-CU has played Miami and Florida State. This season, the Wildcats visit FIU and then travel down I-4 for a meeting with UCF in Week 3.

Jenkins said the Wildcats are working on future games with UM, Florida, Florida State, USF and FAU.

Last year, the Wildcats beat FIU and started 3-0 before losing 54-6 at Florida State.

“I love playing the Florida schools, and we’re making a push to keep playing them,” Jenkins said. “I’m honored that these schools sign us and line up against us. I don’t think they believe we’re a cakewalk. We’ve held our own. We played the national champions and did a decent job moving the ball. They whooped us pretty good, but we accomplished some things against the national champs, and that speaks volumes about our program.”

B-CU bounced back from its loss in Tallahassee by winning its next five games before suffering a loss to visiting Norfolk State — only the fourth MEAC school to beat the Wildcats during Jenkins’ tenure.

The Wildcats recovered to beat Hampton before winning their third in a row in the annual rivalry series against FAMU before losing to Coastal Carolina 48-24.

Bethune-Cookman trailed the host Chanticleers 21-3 after the first quarter and 27-10 at halftime.

“There has been some frustration in watching those games,” Jenkins said.“We’ve played our worst brand of football in the playoffs, had the most penalties, turnovers. We haven’t played well.

When you play teams of that caliber and play at your worst, it’s frustrating. We play good during the year, good down the stretch then we can’t put it together. We know we have the team.”