WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When Florida Memorial University’s football team ran onto the field Saturday afternoon, it marked a day to remember – for the first time in 62 years, South Florida’s only historically Black university (HBCU) had an active football team.
However, the Lions would like to quickly forget how the rest of the afternoon went.
Going up against third-year, No. 9-ranked Keiser University, first-year Florida Memorial found it difficult to produce much on either side of the ball as the Lions fell 62-0 on a rain-soaked Keiser Field Saturday.
The game was played in front of just 110 fans, as Keiser University – by NAIA/Mid-South Conference rule – limited the number of fans allowed in and prohibited any fans from the visiting team from attending the game.
FMU Football is back after 60 years! We are ready to ROAR 🦁 pic.twitter.com/XHcybP0nvf
— Florida Memorial University (@FLMemorialUniv) September 12, 2020
A bad start
Florida Memorial (0-1) got off to an inauspicious start, allowing the Seahawks to return the opening kickoff 82 yards down to the Lions’ 9-yard line. Keiser (1-0) scored four plays later – beginning what would be a 28-point quarter for the Seahawks.
Falling behind by multiple touchdowns not even five minutes into the first quarter – and ultimately trailing 48-0 by halftime – left FMU, which will travel to face Ave Maria University next Saturday (Sept. 19), playing “catch up” for essentially the entire game, which thwarted any chance of its offense or defense getting into a rhythm or building momentum.
Lions head coach Tim Harris Sr. said having a slow start against an opponent like Keiser is asking for long day.
“When things start off slow for you…against anyone really, but especially for us against Keiser today, it put us in bad spots and we couldn’t get much of anything going,” Harris said. “We struggled in all three phases because of it and we saw where we have to improve moving forward – and we will improve moving forward.”
Things to build on
For all that went array for FMU Saturday, there were a handful of things on which the Lions could hang their hats.
FMU did not have any fumbles or interceptions Saturday. Keiser did block a pair of punts – one early in the first quarter that which set up the Seahawks’ second score of the day and another in the second quarter that was returned for a touchdown – but otherwise, Florida Memorial protected the ball.
Also, the Lions offense manufactured 16 first downs – nine of which coming via runs. FMU’s special teams also blocked a Seahawks extra-point attempt.
Freshman running back George Young led the Lions with 68 yards on 13 carries while transfer senior Crispian Atkins finished with 42 yards on 16 attempts. Young also shared in the team-high for receptions (3) for a team-high 30 receiving yards.
FMU sophomore quarterback Antoine Williams completed 16 of his 27 passes for 76 yards Saturday with Jacarie Peak totaling 28 receiving yards – 18 of which coming on FMU’s longest play from scrimmage on the day – and Atkins adding 12 receiving yards.
Freshman defensive backs Keane Lewis and Darian Johnson tied for the team-high in total tackles, each with seven (four solo, three assisted). Also, freshman defensive end Travaris Lark registered the team’s only sack while also recording six total tackles.
Taking on an established program like Keiser, the preseason favorite to repeat as Sun Division (Mid-South Conference) champions, right out of the gate was a tall order for a program that has a roster made up nearly entirely of players who were playing high school football eight months ago – compared to the Seahawks, who have a litany of returning players and actual seniors who’ve matriculated through the program.
Still, Coach Harris isn’t going to allow one loss to dictate how the rest of the season goes.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to do that work,” Harris said. “As a coaching staff we’ve never experienced anything like this and we don’t want to experience like this again and the players don’t want to experience games like this. The work starts as soon as we get in, breaking down film, understanding what adjustments we need to make, and moving forward ready to compete.”
Courtesy: FMU Athletics