Bethune-Cookman wins 9th consecutive Florida Classic 31-27 over Florida A&M

From Bethune-Cookman Athletics:

ORLANDO, Fla. – During the pregame festivities of the 40th Annual Florida Blue Florida Classic Saturday, Florida A&M President Larry Robinson said to the massive  crowd, “Eight is enough” but Bethune-Cookman President Brent Chrite followed up by saying “”Nine is quite fine.” 

Indeed it is as as a resilient Wildcat football team found another way to beat No. 12/13 Florida A&M and extend its Florida Blue Florida Classic winning streak with a 31-27 triumph before a Camping World Stadium crowd of 55,730 – the largest crowd since 2011,

This 40th Annual Florida Blue Florida Classic will go down in history as just that…a classic, with a cast of characters and a plot line much bigger that the audience could ever have imagined. Imagine this, the Wildcat football team seemed to be facing exactly what the entire university has been facing all year…the daunting challenge of beating an unbeatable foe and overcoming hurdles that the experts predicted never to be surpassed. Facing adversity at every turn, heroes emerged who admittedly accomplished things they had never done before, like starting wide receiver Jonathan Thomas having to give up his slot as a wideout to become the Cats’ emergency kicker who went 4-4 in PAT’s and 1-2 in field goals. What about Linebacker Devin James coming up with a huge fumble recovery in the third quarter and the game sealing first interception of his life with less than two minutes to go.

This win was much bigger than a football victory. It was a statement of validation that the Wildcats and the Wildcat Nation believes in its hashtag #PreyTogether. It was a total team effort that is born out in the stats and in the storyline.  

Isaac Washington’s 15-yard run with 2:14 remaining and  James’ interception helped the Wildcats (7-4 overall, 5-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic) snap a three-game losing streak, a nine-game Rattler (9-2,7-1) run and most importantly, extend that winning streak in HBCU’s most prestigious rivalry to nine a row,

“Just a great team effort. These guys have had some real, real serious adversity the last three weeks,” said BCU Head Coach Terry Simms. “We’ve lost some games that we felt like we should not have dropped but they didn’t quit.They kept practicing hard. They kept preparing. And, you know, I think anyone that watched that game tonight, they saw “bend but don’t break” with all three phases of the game.”

Florida A&M took a 27-24 lead on Azende Rey’s second touchdown – a four-yard catch from Ryan Stanley with 11:01 left. BCU tried to answer, but Jonathan Thomas, B-CU’s starting wide receiver thrust into place kicking duties, had his second field goal attempt partially blocked on the next possession.

Following a Rattlers three-and-out, the Wildcats took over at their own 31, then drove 69 yards in nine plays.

Bethune-Cookman racked up 467 total yards on the day – matching a season-high — and converted 10 of its 17 third-down attempts. Akevious Williamsfinished with 269 passing yards on 22-of-35 passing with one touchdown, and also added 21 yards and a score on the ground. Washington carried the ball 12 times for 104 yards and a score, and Marcus Riley caught seven passes for 98 yards to lead all receivers.

“It was important.  Just ’cause we finished out and ‑‑ we didn’t stop the streak.  Just believing in the guys,” Williams said. “We just prepared for this moment all week and we went.  We went fourth down.  We went situation.  We prepared for the moment all week, so it all paid off.”

Washington registered his third 100-yard game of the year, but this was his first game-winning touchdown.

“It was a surreal moment,” Washington said. “Like, it’s always great to experience that.  I’ve never experienced that in my life.  I felt really clutch afterwards.  But what you guys don’t know, it was a crazy play between me and quarterback.  A lot of things could have went bad in that play.  Thank God that it didn’t.”

The Wildcats opened the game with a 15-play, 72-yard drive that drained 8:23 off the clock, but Williams was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Rattlers’ 5, handing the ball over to A&M.

The Wildcats defense responded when Trevor Merritt then took the interception return 23 yards to paydirt to give Bethune-Cookman a 7-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first.

“After I made the interception, Devin James gave me a big shot, but it felt great to be able to set a tone like that,” said Merritt after his second pick six of the season.

B-CU extended its lead to 21-7 early in the second quarter on a Williams 14-yard run and 28-yard Williams to Steffon Francois touchdown that capped off an 80-yard drive that included a 58-yard Riley catch.

FAMU scored the next two touchdowns, but Marquis Hendrix stripped the ball from Stanley, and James recovered the ball and returned it 25 yards before stepping out of bounds the 11-yard line.

Four plays later, Thomas connected on a 25-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 24-20. But FAMU immediately drove 58 yards on eight plays over 3:12 and took its first lead of the game.

Sims is now 5-0 in the Classic and 25-0 when he leads at halftime.

“If you want me to say where does this rank? Number 1,” Sims said. “And after we play another Classic, we win that one, that’ll be Number 1. That’s just the way it is.”
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Team Statistics

Total Yards353467
Pass Yards242269
Rushing Yards111198
Penalty Yards4-3213-138
1st Downs1624
3rd Downs4-1310-17
4th Downs2-31-3
07:18 – BCU – MERRITT,Trevor 23 yd interception (THOMAS,Jonathon kick)07
04:15 – FAMU – WILLIAMS,Marcus 12 yd pass from STANLEY,Ryan (ALY,Yahia kick) 9 plays, 76 yards, TOP 5:4277
12:11 – BCU – WILLIAMS,AK. 14 yd run (THOMAS,Jonathon kick), 7 plays, 77 yards, TOP 2:42714
06:30 – BCU – FRANCOIS,S. 28 yd pass from WILLIAMS,AK. (THOMAS,Jonathon kick) 4 plays, 80 yards, TOP 1:37721
05:45 – FAMU – MANIGO,David 28 yd pass from STANLEY,Ryan (ALY,Yahia kick failed) 3 plays, 57 yards, TOP 0:451321
10:33 – FAMU – REY,Azende 2 yd run (ALY,Yahia kick), 5 plays, 20 yards, TOP 2:152021
14:13 – BCU – THOMAS,Jonathon 25 yd field goal 4 plays, 3 yards, TOP 1:532024
11:01 – FAMU – REY,Azende 4 yd pass from STANLEY,Ryan (ALY,Yahia kick) 8 plays, 58 yards, TOP 3:122724
02:14 – BCU – WASHINGTON,I. 15 yd run (THOMAS,Jonathon kick), 9 plays, 69 yards, TOP 3:242731

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