DAYTONA BEACH — Eddie Poole returned an onside kick 37 yards for a touchdown with 1:12 left to help Bethune-Cookman remain unbeaten in a 35-20 victory over Howard University on Saturday.
With the win, Bethune-Cookman (10-0, 7-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) clinched at least a share of the conference title. The Wildcats also clinched, by virtue of the league's tiebreaker system, the MEAC's automatic berth in the Division I-AA playoffs, which begin in two weeks.
Bethune-Cookman, which is 10-0 for the first time since 1975, can win the MEAC title outright by defeating Florida A&M this coming Saturday in Orlando.
The Bison (1-9, 0-7) lost their fifth in a row.
Trailing 21-0 at halftime, Howard's Terry Bradden threw three touchdown passes to eventually cut the margin to one score, 28-20, with 1:18 to play. But Poole's score on the ensuing play held off Howard's rally.
Bethune-Cookman's Johnathan Moment scored the game's first touchdown on a 1-yard dive on the opening possession. The Wildcats made it 14-0 later in the quarter when Poole caught a 15-yard pass from Matt Johnson.
Jarkevis Fields recovered a Howard fumble in the end zone at 5:55 of the second period to provide B-CU its three-touchdown halftime advantage.
FAMU 17, Hampton 12: Philip Sylvester rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown, and the host Rattlers (7-3, 6-1 MEAC) held on to beat Hampton (5-5, 4-3). Sylvester had a 79-yard touchdown run, Austin Trainor scored on a 5-yard run and Trevor Scott added a 25-yard field goal as FAMU built a 17-6 halftime lead. Trainor was 14-of-31 passing for 156 yards for the Rattlers, who are tied for second in the conference with South Carolina State and play first-place Bethune-Cookman this coming Saturday.
FIU 52, Troy 35: Three Golden Panthers ran for more than 100 yards as Florida International set a school record with 448 rushing yards in the victory over host Troy. Darriet Perry ran for 186, T.Y. Hilton 158 and Darian Mallary 118 as the Golden Panthers (4-5, 4-1 Sun Belt) moved into first place in the conference. "I have to believe that this is the biggest win in program history," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. "It's a tribute to everyone in that locker room to find a way to keep pressing on." FIU scored four times from 50 yards out or more. The Trojans (5-4, 4-2) are in danger of having a four-year conference championship streak end.
FAU 24, La.-Laf. 23: Jeff Van Camp threw three touchdown passes and the host Owls (4-5, 3-3 Sun Belt) posted their third consecutive win while the Ragin' Cajuns (2-8, 2-4) lost their sixth straight. Trailing 24-17, Louisiana-Lafayette scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gautier to Vernon Wolfe with 1:45 left. The Ragin' Cajuns decided to eschew the tie attempt and go for the 2-point conversion, but Gautier's roll-out pass attempt failed. The Owls recovered the onside kick.
Jax 31, Campbell 24: Rudell Small rushed for 114 yards and scored from 3 yards out with 1:43 left as the host Dolphins (10-1, 8-0) beat Campbell (3-7, 2-5) to clinch a tie for the Pioneer Football League championship. The Dolphins kept alive slim hopes for a Division I-AA playoff berth. The PFL has no automatic berth. Jacksonville is tied with Dayton, a team not on its schedule this season.