It seems fitting that after defensive coordinator Alvin Wyatt became coach, Bethune-Cookman would surface as one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Going into Saturday's home game against North Carolina A&T, the Wildcats (3-4) are ranked No.
5 in Division I-AA in total defense. The Wildcats have given up 797 rushing yards (113.8 average) and 814 yards passing (116 average). They have recovered 16 fumbles and snared 14 interceptions.
Opponents are gaining 341.3 yards per game. Last year B-CC gave up 432 yards per game and surrendered 34.9 points.
"We have a real togetherness on the team," senior linebacker Michael Womack said. "I think that has been a key. The entire defensive unit sticks together, and we have set some goals."
Womack said the team has a goal of finishing No. 1 in the nation in defense.
"We want to end the season as the best, and that can happen," he said. "It's not like this was an overnight thing. We have had a gradual improvement on the defense, but I knew going into this season that we were going to good. I didn't think we would be exceptional."
One of the keys, Womack said, is the role of first-year defensive coordinator Pete Adrian.
"It all starts with Coach Adrian," Womack said. "He's a player's coach who gets us really motivated, and he puts in all these different defensive schemes that give offenses a lot of trouble."
WELCOMING THE REST: They've played seven straight games and three of the past four on the road. And with a number of key players banged up, last week's bye could not have come at a better time for Florida A&M.
"We needed some rest," coach Billy Joe said. "We have a plethora of injuries on the team, and I think it was critical for us to get some of the guys to heal and do a little bit of rehab. You always enjoy extra time to get healthy."
But going into Saturday's game at Morgan State, the Rattlers still are banged up. Senior WR John Rutledge, who started the season in brilliant form with eight catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the opener, is out for the year with rib and knee injuries. DT Leonard Holmes (knee) and LB Chris Morman (broken arm) also are out for the year.
The open week did have it benefits, however. Senior WR Marvin Taylor (shoulder) and LB Olrick Johnson (pinched nerve) are expected to play.
BRAINS AND BRAWN: Over the past two seasons, FAMU QB Oteman Sampson has made good decisions on the field. Now there's an explanation why the 6-foot-1, 190 pounder has played so wisely. He's pretty wise.
Sampson, who has completed 135 of 233 passes for 1,961 yards and 15 touchdowns, not only is vying for All-America honors on the field, he is emerging as an academic all-star. A senior studying civil engineering technology, Sampson maintains a 3.27 grade-point average.
"You always want to recruit really quality young men and young athletes who can come in here and do the right thing and become productive citizens once they leave," Joe said. "And the accomplishments of Sampson are only going to reflect well on the program as a whole."
The Miami native is not the only Rattlers star excelling in the classroom. K Juan Toro, who leads the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with 61 points, has a 3.39 GPA in his studies of health, physical education and recreation.
JUST MOVE ON: Fans of UCF's blossoming program probably are getting a tad frustrated over the team's close losses, but coach Gene McDowell has a clear message for them: Move on.
In their second year in Division I-A, the Knights have played top-level SEC competition close.
UCF fell 35-28 to Mississippi State on Saturday despite leading with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and QB Daunte Culpepper single-handedly outgaining the Bulldogs 410-318. The Knights also lost close decisions to Mississippi (24-23) and South Carolina (33-31).
"There's no time to cry in your beer in this business," McDowell told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's all about moving on.
"We usually play better at the end of the season, especially on offense. Finishing with a winning season is our primary goal now."