THE NCAA football season kicked off at universities across the United States and several Bahamian players were in action in week one.
Linesmen Rondre Knowles-Tener (James Madison Dukes) and Chris Ferguson (Cincinnati Bearcats) saw their teams debut with wins while Mavin Saunders (Florida State Seminoles) and Mike Strachan (Charleston Golden Eagles) opened the season with losses.
Coming out of high school Knowles-Tener originally committed to the East Carolina Pirates but eventually chose to join the programme at James Madison. When the two teams met Saturday, the Dukes solidified their status as one of the most feared teams in the FCS with a win over another FBS team, a 34-14 win over the Pirates.
The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of collegiate football. The FBS is the most competitive subdivision of NCAA Division I, which itself consists of the largest and most competitive schools in the NCAA. The Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) was formerly known as Division I-AA.
The Dukes racked up over 600 yards of offence on the Pirates, including 422 on the ground, second most in school history. The defending FCS champions, JMU continued the longest winning streak in all of Division I football with their 13th consecutive win. They continued a legacy of wins over FBS teams after a 48-45 win at SMU in 2015 and back in 2010, James Madison also defeated 13th ranked Virginia Tech 21-16.
JMU increased the longest winning streak in all of Division I football to 13 games while improving to 2-0 all-time against American Conference teams (48-45 at SMU in 2015). The Dukes also snapped a 25-game winning streak for ECU against FCS opponents.
Knowles-Tener sat out his true freshman season last year as a redshirt but is expected to be an important factor in the Dukes’ plans for it’s defensive frontline moving forward. The six-foot, one-inch, 295-pound defensive lineman is a former standout performer at Tabernacle Baptist Academy and also anchored the defensive line at Liberty Christian Academy (LCA) in Lynchburg, Virginia. Knowles-Tener drew interest from a number of elite division I programmes, including Wake Forest and East Carolina. He originally committed to East Carolina but said James Madison is a better fit. “They told me they want me to be an early contributor,” he said in an interview with The News and Advance. “So this year is going to be about working myself into shape.” On signing day last February, Dukes head coach Mike Houston outlined the impact he expects the Grand Bahamian native to have on the programme. “Rondre is a big, powerful, athletic defensive lineman,” he said. “He has a ton of personality and will test the offensive line with his quickness.”
Ferguson and the Bearcats opened the season with a 26-14 win over the Austin Peay Governours.
It marked the fifth meeting between the two schools and the first since 2011. Cincinnati now leads the all-time series 5-0 with all five meetings taking place in Cincinnati.
Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell, said that the tem experienced its fair share of ups and downs in week one, but achieved the most important thing – a win.
“I’ll just start off by saying the most important thing is getting that win. It has been a while coming for these guys and for myself. You know seven and a half, eight months kind of grinding through a lot of things and talking to them about the process and kind of really emphasizing the journey that we have been on to come out tonight and ultimately, you know have some ups and downs, but ultimately to get the win, to have the success. I told them up in the locker room, it’s not easy to win, and I don’t care what level, I don’t care who you are playing, it’s not, and to come away with a win, to do the things we did, to have the adversity, I think that’s probably as we look back at this and we go to evaluate this night, the ability to have some adversity, to see what we are really made of is what I think we are really going to grow from
We came away with a lot about ourselves tonight and I think that is going to give us the opportunity to grow, have our greatest growth between game one and game two.”
Ferguson, the 6’6” 305 pound redshirt junior was initially recruited as defensive lineman but is now listed an offensive lineman. He came to the Bearcats as a three-star recruit, according to ESPN.com, and has a pair of stars from 247sports.com and Scout.com.
As a defensive lineman in his senior season at Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Florida, he recorded 17 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
After just two years of playing organised football, one year locally with the Orry J Sands Pros and one year in Lake Nona, his potential as a defensive lineman was quickly noted.
Ferguson was named to the Orange County Senior Bowl and was ranked No.40 in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super 60 and picked UC over offers from Illinois, Minnesota and Western Kentucky. He was the Bearcats’ first signee of the 2014 class as a defensive tackle.
In the most anticipated matchup if the weekend, Saunders and the No.3 ranked Seminoles lost 24-7 to the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Game.
The Crimson Tide finished with just 269 yards of offense and 4.9 yards per play – slightly above FSU’s 250 and 4.2 yards per play.
“Well, we moved the ball very well the first half, had a good mix, and second half the first couple drives, then once we lost the momentum and got one-dimensional, had a lot of them to blitz and tee off and come at us and make plays, but again, I’ll evaluate the film. I thought they did some really nice things in there because we had some good plays and some things that went really well. Again, we’ll look, and when you play good people like that, you’ve got to be perfect, but I didn’t think they were poor at all. I thought they did a pretty solid job, and we’ll look at the reasons why the other breakdowns and what happened.” Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher said, “We felt good at halftime about the way the game went. Disappointed in where we were, but felt in what we were doing and how we were doing it, and we just lost the momentum.”
As if the struggles on offence were not enough, FSU suffered several miscues on special teams that placed them in a further hole.
The Crimson Tide blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter when the Seminoles had an opportunity to tie the game headed into the half. They would later go on to block a punt that led to another Alabama field goal and a fumbled kickoff return which led to a touchdown.
The Seminoles finished 10-3 last season, capped by a win over the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.
The 6’6”, 258-pound tight end finished his sophomore season with 10 receptions for 182 yards, both career highs.
Strachan and the University of Charleston Golden Eagles lost their opener to the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets, 51-28 on Saturday.
The 6ft 5in 205lb pound sophomore wide receiver is three-sport athlete who also runa track for the Golden Eagles.
He joined Charleston after a standout career for coach Chris Rocco at LCA alongsinde Knowles-Tener.