FAMU prepares to take on Bethune-Cookman in 40th Annual Florida Classic

From Florida A&M Sports Information:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | The Florida A&M University football team, ranked No. 12 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) polls, will look to conclude the season on Saturday in the 40th Annual Florida Blue Florida Classic against rival Bethune-Cookman. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. from Camping World Stadium.

The game will be broadcasted and streamed live on ESPN News as the crew of Tiffany Greene (play-by-play) and Jay Walker (color analyst), along with Lericia Harris (sideline) will call all the action. The broadcast crew of Keith Miles (play-by-play), Albert Chester (color analyst) and Calvin Sykes (sideline) will have the action live on WHBX – 96.1 FM (JAMZ).

The Rattlers (9-1 overall, 7-0 MEAC) moved one step closer to a perfect conference season with a 39-7 win last weekend against Howard. Florida A&M started out of the gate slowly and got a 46-yard field by Yahia Aly to take a 3-0 lead into the second quarter. The Rattlers got touchdowns by Azende Rey and Xavier Smith as FAMU pushed the lead to 17-0 at the half. Florida A&M put the game away with 22 third-quarter points as the Rattlers cruised to the Senior Day win. FAMU finished with 21 first downs and 396 total yards. Ryan Stanley went 15 of 28 passing for 172 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Xavier Smith caught seven passes for 120 yards and moved over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season.  

Bethune-Cookman (6-4, 4-3) enters off three straight MEAC losses. The Wildcats opened the season with a 36-15 win in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge over Jackson State. After a 63-0 loss to Miami, Bethune-Cookman reeled off five straight wins, but stumbled with losses to South Carolina State, Delaware State and No. 25 North Carolina A&T State. The Wildcats trailed 14-0 after one quarter to the Aggies and 20-10 at the half. Bethune-Cookman got a 9-yard touchdown run by Akevious Williams early in the fourth quarter, but North Carolina A&T State put the game away with a pair of scores for the 47-17 victory. Williams was 10 of 22 passing for 119 yards, while carrying the ball 13 times for 45 yards. Bethune-Cookman finished with just 10 first downs and 229 total yards.

“I thought process is ‘Fight to Finish’ and that has been our motto all season and these guys have really bought in to that,” Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons said. “They’ve shown every week that they believe in it. Now this is the finale and so obviously we talk about finishing. it’s about what you are doing at the end, so this is the last game of the season, of the regular season, our guys know what’s at stake. We understand the magnitude of this game and we take the same approach. 

“It’s the biggest game of the year, it’s the biggest game of our lives and it’s the biggest game we’ve ever played in, not necessarily because it’s the Florida Classic or because it’s Bethune and end a losing streak, but because it’s the next game the good Lord allows us to play. Because of that we are going to take the same approach. We are going to focus on the little things, do the things that it takes during the week to be prepared to play our best on Saturday and once we do those things, then we feel like we give ourselves the best chance to be successful. It’s very exciting time for this football team and program. We are thankful for this opportunity and looking forward to working hard to finish the season the way we want to.”

About The Game
> This will be the 75th meeting between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman

> Florida A&M leads the all-time series, 49-23-1, as one FAMU victory (2001) was vacated due to NCAA sanctions

> The Rattlers also lead the Florida Blue Florida Classic series at 20-18

> Bethune-Cookman has won eight straight in the series, but is not the longest in the series… That belongs to FAMU with 19 from 1953 to 1972

> The largest margin of victory for Florida A&M came in 1960, 97-0, while Bethune-Cookman’s largest margin was 34-0 in 1976

Inside the Rankings
> Florida A&M is ranked No. 12 in the STATS FCS Top 25 and No. 13 in the FCS Coaches Poll

> The Rattlers hold the top spot in the SBN Black College Football Poll and BOXTOROW Coaches Poll

> Bethune-Cookman is unranked in the STATS FCS Top 25, FCS Coaches Poll, SBN Black College Football Poll and BOXTOROW Coaches Poll
About Florida A&M
> The Rattlers enter the matchup off a 39-7 victory during Senior Day against Howard

> Florida A&M finished unbeaten (6-0) at home for the first time since 2009

> FAMU opened the season with a loss at No. 17 UCF, but have since reeled off nine straight wins

> The nine straight victories are the third longest current streak in the FCS behind North Dakota State (32) and James Madison (10)

> Willie Simmons joined Rudy Hubbard and Billy Joe as the only coaches to reach nine wins in their second season as head coach

> A win on Saturday would give the Rattlers their first perfect conference record since 1995 (8-0 under Billy Joe)

About Bethune-Cookman
> After starting the season 6-1, the Wildcats have dropped three straight, including a 47-17 loss last week to No. 25 North Carolina A&T State

> The Wildcats are in search of their ninth straight win against their biggest rivals

> Bethune-Cookman head coach Terry Sims is 10-3 in November

> The Wildcats are 25-0 when leading at halftime and 32-0 when BCU outrushes the opponents during the Terry Sims era

> Bethune-Cookman will be looking to avoid its first four-game losing streak since 2009

Last Time Against Bethune-Cookman

> The Rattlers led 13-7 at the half, but were outscored in the second half, 26-7 as Bethune-Cookman defeated FAMU for the eighth straight time, 33-19

> FAMU got a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Stanley to George Webb to give the Rattlers a 19-17 lead with 37 seconds left in the fourth

> On the ensuing kickoff, Vernon Walker returned the ball 98 yards for the score and BCU never looked back

> FAMU finished with 28 first downs and 465 yards of offense

> The Wildcats amassed 417 total yards, with 201 coming on the ground

> Ryan Stanley went 27 of 45 passing for 305 yards with three interceptions and two touchdowns

> Xavier Smith registered eight catches for 127 yards

> David Israel went 12 of 23 passing for 216 yards

> Tupac Isme rushed five times for 107 yards, with one score

Inside The Numbers

> Florida A&M ranks tops in the conference in pass efficiency, PAT kicking, interceptions, sacks against, kickoff coverage, third-down conversions and turnover margin

> The Rattlers are second in the MEAC in scoring offense, total offense, pass defense efficiency, kickoff returns and first downs

> FAMU ranks seventh in the FCS in sacks allowed, 10th in passes intercepted, 11th in fumbles lost, 12th in turnover margin, 13th in third-down conversion percentage, 14th in passing offense, 19th in team passing efficiency defense and 20th in kickoff returns

> Markquese Bell is 14th in FCS in passes defended and 23rd in interceptions per game

> Chris Faddoul ranks second in the FCS in punting

> Marcus Williams is sixth in the nation in kickoff returns

> Ryan Stanley ranks 19th in the FCS in passing yards per game, 20th in passing efficiency, 20th in yards per pass attempt and 25th in passing touchdowns

> Xavier Smith is third in the nation in receiving yards per game, fifth in receptions per game, seventh in receiving yards and eighth receiving touchdowns

> Florida A&M is averaging 33.3 points, while surrendering 27.0 points

> Bethune-Cookman is averaging 23.7 points and giving up 25.8 points

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