Hampton University got inside the Bethune-Cookman 4-yard line on three series Saturday, inside the 20 another time and inside the 25 another. The Pirates netted only two field goals.
The wasted scoring opportunities were decisive in the Pirates' 17-6 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference loss to the visiting Wildcats. And a 2008 season that looked so promising three games ago, when the Pirates were 5-1 and ranked No. 22 in the nation, is sliding precariously toward the program's first losing season in more than a decade.
The Pirates (5-4 overall, 4-2 MEAC) can secure their 12th consecutive winning season by winning on the road at Florida A&M or Morgan State. But the freefall will continue if the Pirates continue to squander their scoring chances.
"We've lost three in a row and the same thing happened over and over," Pirates coach Jerry Holmes said. "It was 0-0 against South Carolina State at halftime and we had missed a bunch of scoring opportunities, and it was the same last week against Winston-Salem State.
"You can't give up those opportunities, but you can't put it all on the kids. Our play selection was too predictable."
The Wildcats (7-2, 4-2) seemed to have little trouble figuring out the Pirates, whose 272 yards were far below their MEAC-leading average of 382. The Pirates began squandering scoring chances immediately, after Reggie Dixon forced a B-CU fumble on the opening kickoff and Carson Byrd recovered at the Wildcats' 23.
The Pirates netted only four yards on their first two plays, then safety Travis Roland sacked HU quarterback Herbert Bynes for an 11-yard loss on third down to force a punt. The sack was the first of five by the Wildcats.
"That was big," Roland said. "It gave us momentum and got me on a roll. When I get a play like that early in the game, it really gets me going."
Roland struck again late in the first quarter. Gerard Griffin's 21-yard run ignited a 14-play Hampton drive that moved from the 29 to the B-CU 1.
But on third-and-goal at the 1, Roland dropped Coker for a 2-yard loss with a highlight-reel smackdown. The Pirates settled for Carlo Turavani's 20-yard field goal and led 3-0.
The Wildcats rode the momentum to the go-ahead touchdown. Option quarterback McKinson Souverain went 25 yards on a keeper and 29 more by scrambling from pressure. That set up Brian Sumlar's 1-yard TD run to put the Wildcats ahead 7-3.
Roland and the Wildcats resumed frustrating the Pirates. The Pirates drove to the B-CU 10 and appeared to settle for Turavani's 27-yard field goal until the Wildcats were called for roughing the kicker on the play.
The ball moved to the 5-yard line, but the four extra downs didn't help HU. The Pirates netted no yards on ensuing three downs — with Roland planting Griffin into the turf more emphatically than he had Coker — and Turavani kicked a field goal to make it 7-6.
The second half was more of the same.
The Pirates drove to the Wildcats' 3 on their first possession of the third quarter, but Bynes was sacked on third down for a 10-yard loss. Turavani missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt that would've given HU the lead.
Souverain's 8-yard touchdown run made it 14-6 late in the third quarter. The Pirates responded with a drive to the B-CU 24, only to be moved back by an intentional grounding and another sack of Bynes.
B-CU put the game out of reach with a fourth-quarter field goal. Despite the slide, Holmes remains undaunted.
"We have a good bunch of guys, and they can bounce back," he said. "The FAMU game becomes the biggest one of the season, because it can give us momentum to take into the weight room during the winter and into next year."
BETHUNE-COOKMAN 17, HAMPTON 6
First Quarter Hamp—FG Turavani 20, :19.
Second Quarter Beth—Sumlar 1 run (McCutcheon kick), 12:50. Hamp—FG Turavani 22, 9:24.
Third Quarter Beth—Souverain 8 run (McCutcheon kick), 4:08.
Fourth Quarter Beth—FG McCutcheon 35, 9:16. A—1,270.
BethHampFirst downs1419Rushes-yards40-21142-94Passing94178Comp-Att-Int6-12-015-34-1Return Yards5519Punts-Avg.5-33.66-44.2Fumbles-Lost3-21-0Penalties-Yards8-467-77Time of Possession29:0430:56INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Bethune-Cookman, Sumlar 16-110, Souverain 15-88, Kirkland 4-15, Council 1-3, Johnson 1-(minus 2), Team 3-(minus 3). Hampton, Coker 21-106, Griffin 8-35, Cummings 5-7, Gilchrist 1-(minus 7), Bynes 7-(minus 47).
PASSING—Bethune-Cookman, Souverain 3-8-0-64, Johnson 3-4-0-30. Hampton, Bynes 15-34-1-178.
RECEIVING—Bethune-Cookman, Kirkland 4-35, Pope 1-53, Sumlar 1-6. Hampton, Brown 6-65, Gilchrist 3-50, Coker 2-18, McDaniel 1-20, Lloyd 1-16, McCain 1-6, Griffin 1-3.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun