Bethune-Cookman beats Florida A&M 21-16
Bethune-Cookman didn't want back into the FCS playoffs with a loss, and the Wildcats accomplished that with a 21-16 victory over arch rival Florida A&M in the Florida Classic Saturday.
Quentin Williams threw for 120 yards and one touchdown as the Wildcats got a late defensive stop to win their seventh consecutive game and 13th in conference play dating back to last season.
Williams also rushed for 86 yards for the Wildcats (9-2, 8-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), who had already clinched the conference championship and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
The victory marked the third time that Bethune-Cookman has beaten Florida A&M in consecutive years in a series that started in 1925.
"When you're going to the next phase (playoffs), you want to have success following you," said Bethune-Cookman Head Coach Brian Jenkins. "It's carryover. We can go into the playoffs undisputed and unbeaten. It's a great win for our program. We had a rocky start and put ourselves in bad positions, but we found a way to win."
Florida A&M (4-7, 4-4) cut the lead to 21-16 when Damien Fleming connected with Dewayne Harvey for a 37-yard score with 8:04 remaining. The Rattlers had the ball in Bethune-Cookman's territory late in the game, but a fumble by Fleming gave the ball back to the Wildcats who ran out the clock.
Bethune-Cookman scored on consecutive possessions to take a 21-10 lead, using a pair of big fourth-down plays.
On a fourth-and-three, Isidore Jackson scored on a 34-yard run with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter to put B-CU ahead 14-10.
On B-CU's next possession, Andronicus Lovette convereted a fourth and three at the FAMU 11 with an 8-yard gain, than scored from one yard out with 11:30 left.
"That tells you about our offensive line," Jenkins said when asked about the decision to go for it. "Our running backs didn't want to be stopped. It speaks volume about the fight in our football team."
Williams' touchdown pass was a one-yarder to Eddie Poole in the first quarter that gave B-CU a 7-3 lead. Florida A&M led 10-7 at halftime on the strength of James' Owens' 41-yard second quarter run.
Jackson, a 5-9 junior, was named B-CU's MVP after rushing for 77 yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 41 yards.
Fleming, a 6-4 junior, was named Florida A&M's MVP. He was 18 of 23 for 166 yards for the Rattlers, playing their second game under interim coach Earl Holmes, who took over after Joe Taylor retired two weeks ago.
"We're a young team," said Holmes. "No excuses or anything like that, and I'm not taking anything away from Bethune-Cookman. It was a hell of a game and a hell of an effort. We just have to learn from it."
Attendance for the game, recognized as one of the nation's top Black College Football Classics, was announced at 32,317 - the lowest since the 1993 game drew 31,264. The absence of the Florida A&M band, suspended for a year after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion here last year, played a major role in the attendance declined.
Champion was remembered with a moment of silence before kickoff, and R&B artist Charlie Wilson performed in the Florida A&M band. During its set, the Bethune-Cookman band spelled out "LOVE" to Florida A&M fans and played the Rattlers' alma mater.
"What happens to one (Historically Black College/University) happens to us all," said B-CU band Public Address announcer Glenn Walker. "Florida A&M, we love you."