Bethune-Cookman trailed in a game for the first time this year. The Wildcats didn’t lose, mind you. But Hampton at least tested the MEAC frontrunners, 9-0 for the first time since 2002.
Then, they giftwrapped a loss.
In fact, the memory of holding a 7-point lead over a ranked FCS team with the league’s best offense faded pretty quickly after halftime. Within three minutes of play, Hampton (5-4, 4-2 MEAC) proceded to give back two turnovers, both of which ended up as scores for Bethune-Cookman. Momentum never swung back for the Pirates, who fell 23-18.
“The last thing that I was counting on was coming down and fumbling the ball, and they pick it up and run it for a touchdown,” a stunned Hampton coach Donovan Rose said. “That just threw a monkey wrench in it. I thought momentum-wise, we were going to come down and score. … I just knew we were ready to go.”
As the offense — hobbled by injuries, and hounded by mistakes — once again let it down late, Hampton played well enough to win on defense.
Bethune-Cookman (9-0, 6-0 MEAC) was limited to 248 yards — half of its season average — and just a single field goal before the bands played. Wildcats quarterback Matt Johnson was held off his nightly averages, too.
But an opportunistic Bethune — which came into the game leading the championship subdivision with a plus-21 turnover ratio — won anyway. In some ways, Hampton tailback Antwon Chisholm‘s day encapsulated everything: He dashed for 66 yards, but he also accounted for two of Hampton’s four fumbles.
“That turnover battle, that’s the name of the game,” Hampton’s Rose added, after the loss. “You want to be in ‘plus’ territory, but it’s hard. You put a good team like that, you keep giving them opportunities, they’re going to take advantage of it.”
The Wildcats are not only in first place of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, they are the only remaining undefeated FCS team in the country after Jacksonville State fell 49-37 to Eastern Kentucky.