By Richard A. Moore
Bragging rights are on the line at the annual Florida Classic in Orlando, FL where more than 53,000 filled the stands to watch two powerhouses battle.
Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman are two teams headed in opposite directions; even their records are exactly opposite — FAMU sporting an 8-2 record and BCU sitting at 2-8.
While BCU seemed to have the Rattlers number in recent years, the Rattlers have returned to their roots and turned the tables on the Wildcats winning the game last year 46-21 after the Wildcats reeled off nine consecutive wins.
FAMU remains the overall championship leader, with the series sitting at 45-24-1, thanks in large part to their early success. However, over the last two decades of the game being played in Orlando, FAMU has bagged 11 wins while B-CU has won 13 (9 consecutive) out of 24 games.
The Rattlers opened this year’s game with two touchdowns in the first quarter and their defense set up both touchdowns. First Javon Morgan intercepted a pass from Jalon Jones intended for Kemari Averett and returned it 33 yards to the BCU 32.
From there the Rattlers used five plays to score as Jaylen McCloud plunged in from the 3-yard line to open the scoring.
FAMU’s extra point was blocked.
On the very next possession for BCU, QB Jalon Jones was sacked on the BCU 20-yard line where Anthony Dunn recovered the ball. From there the Rattlers rolled six plays in 20 yards and Jaylen McCloud again went up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown.
The FAMU defense had set the tone early.
Bethune Cookman made a game of it in the second quarter when Que‘shaun Byrd ran the ball nine yards at 13:34 in the second quarter to make the score 13-7 FAMU. Jeremy Moussa and the Rattlers answered when he hit Xavier Smith with a pass up the middle of a wide-open field for a 32 yard touchdown with 11:10 left on the clock to put the Rattlers up 20-7. Xavier Smith, the FAMU MVP, threw for a touchdown to quarterback Jeremy Moosa 32 yards and plenty of run after the catch. That put the Rattlers in the driver’s seat and in a place of comfort for them, 27-7.
The third quarter belonged to the Wildcats and the Rattler Nation became nervous. The Wildcats scored on a 15-yard pass from Jalon Jones to Daveno Ellington to pull the Wildcats within 13 points. BCU would hold the Rattlers scoreless in the third quarter and score first in the fourth quarter to really make the Rattlers take notice. With the score 27-20 the FAMU faithful became very restless and could only think of how none of the previous 10 games went to the Wildcats.
FAMU Coach Willie Simmons had another trick play up his sleeve and used it to sustain a drive and put the game out of reach. Facing 4th down and 5 from the BCU 43, Coach Simmons called for the fake punt…again. He had called for it the previous possession but said they called it off because they did not get the look they wanted.
This time they did. Chris Faddoul, (a former HS Quarterback) executed the fake punt to perfection with a pass to a wide-open Jeremiah Pruitte for a 25-yard gain and a Rattler 1st down. Two plays later, Moosa would find Koby Gross down the right side for an 18-yard touchdown pass to break the will of the Wildcats and put the Rattlers up
34-20. The Wildcats would not see the end-zone again but the Rattlers would add a final touchdown when Terrell Jennings punched it in from seven yards out to put the Rattlers up 41-20.