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On my way up here, I heard a ticket counter call this game the “Superbowl of black colleges.” Based off the atmosphere you’d think you were at the Superbowl. Or at least at a high-profile championship game.
We are at the 30th Annual Florida Classic, a battle between bitter Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rivals, Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University. So far, Florida A&M has the edge over the Wildcats in terms of overall record, 46-15-1. That’s in the past, so lets took a look a few current stats.
The Rattlers are coming off their only shutout loss of the season at the hands of the Hampton University Pirates Pirates 25-0. Wide receivers Kevin Elliot and Isaac West both went down with right ankle sprains and did quarterbacks Curtis Pulley and Eddie Battle win down with a groin injury and a shoulder sprain respectively. So far I’ve seen Elliot and Battle working out working out at full speed. Pulley and West seem to be MIA so far.
In contrast to the Rattlers’ injury woes, the Wildcats are enjoy some sucess as of late. After starting off 0-4 the Wildcats battled back to win five of their last six games. A 6-5 record after such a dreadful start is something to hang their hats on, so expect the Wildcats to come out firing.
Surprise! Pulley is dressed out and warming up. Breathe folks, it is now ok to breathe.
West is back now. Another moment to breate for the Rattler faithful. 35 minutes until kickoff.
Well here’s something interesting: Since Thursday, Bethune-Cookman sold more tickets to the Classic than Florida A&M. As punishment, President James Ammons had to put on a Wildcats jacket. Sad.
The Wildcats win the toss and defer to the second half. 20 bucks says they don’t kick to Leroy Vann to start the game off.
First series and redshirt freshman Martin Ukpai is the starting quarterback. The running is solid as him and Philip Sylvester are splitting the runs. The passing is questionable at best. Pounding the ball might be the best early option for the Rattlers.
A quick series and Florida A&M will have to punt the ball away.
Who says punting is bad? Brandon Holdren just pinned the Wildcats inside their own one yard line. Let’s see if the defense can hold the Wildcats to just a three and out and get the Rattlers some good field position.
Well the Rattlers got the great field position. First and 10 on the Bethune-Cookman 43 yard line. I remember reading a stat about Bethune-Cookman having the best punt coverage in the MEAC. They’re still terrified to kick to Vann.
Rush the ball effectively, set up the play-action pass, get yardage and score. A simple mantra, but one that works. Just ask head coach Joe Taylor. A very successful drive set up by a play action pass from Ukpai to receiver Jarvis Funderburk, capped off by a five yard touchdwon run by veteran running back Sylvester and the Rattlers strike first.
7-0 FAMU, 6:53 left in the first quarter.
Well this is interesting. Florida A&M’s defense is downright mean right now, holding Bethune-Cookman to two three and outs. Despite not having star quarterback Curtis Pulley in the lineup, the offense is clicking.
Cool stuff really.
Funny story: Ukpai picked up a first down on a rush. One of the other reporters said, “Well he’s been watching Pulley do it for two years, he should know how to do it by now.”
I think Bethune-Cookman got a little tired of the “clicking.” Three straight plays stopped behind the line of scrimmage, and out comes Holdren for the punt.
Never mind, out went Trevor Scott for the field goal. He tried a 47 yarder and it came up way short, allowing for an easy return for Bethune-Cookman. Really, when you break the play down, nothing was gained by either team. Just a turnover on downs.
End of the first quarter, and Upkai is 2-4 for 63 yards. 10 yards shy of Florida A&M’s entier passing offense against Hampton.
So much for being scared of Vann. In an act of total defiance, Bethune-Cookman decided to punt to directly to the return specialist. Vann caught it and got hit… hard. He’s up and about but he took a shot for the first time in a while.
When in doubt, call in Mykel Benson and let him rumble to a first down.
When in further doubt, call in Sylvester and he’ll get you a touchdwon, until the play is waived off by a penalty.
I understand these teams hate each other, but why degrade the game of football with unsanctioned violence? You’re allowed to go hit each other as much as you want, there’s no reason to throw fists. Kevin Elliot got into it briefly with a Wildcat, then the Wildcats tried to fight… each other? Yeah I’m confused too.
Meanwhile, Martin Ukpai is still doing well, despite being called Curtis Pulley numerous times by the announcer. Five completed passes, seven attempts, 123 yards and an almost touchdown. Not bad.
And I stick by what I said: When in doubt, call in Mykel Benson. If you need just one or two extra yards let that big guy go in there and destroy someone for you.
14-0 FAMU. 11:41 left in the half.
I give credit where credit is due. I have to give credit to the Wildcats for harassing Ukpai for most of this game. He’s doing well but has spent a good chunk of time either on his back or running for his life. So far he has been sacked three times. That kind of beating can and will take a toll on the young quarterback.
Ukpai is pretty cool. He makes running for you life look pretty fun. An 11-yard dash and the Rattler is in the endzone for the first time in his collegiate career. Not bad, and all this during one of the biggest games on the Rattlers’ schedule.
21-0 FAMU, 5:49 left in the half.
Defensive back Qier Hall told me last week to expect a “goose egg” if the defense is all on the same page.
If you forget about Jevaughn Reams catching a 47 yard pass, the defense looks like it’s clicking. Bethune-Cookman not scoring should be enough evidence of that.
Defensive back Curtis Holcomb just “clicked” all over Bethune-Cookman. BCU was in the red zone, and Holcomb took a pass 76 yards in the opposite direction to set Florida A&M up in the opposite red zone.
Javares Knight put the Rattlers at the one yard line. Bring on Benson.
I think Bethune-Cookman forgot that wide receivers also line up in goal line scenarios. They completely forgot that Kevin Elliot exists, and Ukpai made them pay for it in the form of an easy one yard pass for a touchdown.
28-0 FAMU with 18 seconds left in the half.
|Avg. per rush||4.1||-0.5|
|Avg. per pass||15.1||13.2|
|Avg. per completion||18.9||29.8|
|TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS||246||113|
|Avg. gain per play||7.5||5.4|
*stats courtesy of floridaclassic.org
We’re back after a half-hour halftime. Kind of long, yes, but it is the classic so I’ll cut the bands some slack.
Bethune-Cookman had the ball for about three minutes and had to punt it away. So far no halftime adjustments look like they’re taking effect.
It has been a while since Sylvester just shredded a defense like this. Add a 42 yard yard touchdown run on the man’s already impressive day. 10 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
35-0, FAMU with 12:03 left in the 3rd quarter.
Might as well let Hall join in the party. His interception just set them up on the 18 yard line, immediately following a touchdown.
Finally Bethune-Cookman takes a little momentum back. The typically sure-handed Benson bobbled a would-be touchdown pass and the ball landed right into the hands of BCU cornerback Antwuan Cox.
Bethune-Cookman is back on the move starting from their own 19.
…I’m running out of creative ways to say what’s going on in the game. It’s all kind of the same. Bethune-Cookman can’t move the ball. Ukpai is having a good game. Sylvester is running all over the place.
FAMU is back in the red zone with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Fourth and goal on the one yard line. Going for it was the right call, it just backfired. Bethune-Cookman now has the ball on their own one yard line, and FAMU has no points to show for all of their efforts for that seven play, 60 yard drive.
End of the third quarter. Florida A&M leads 35-0
And Michael Creary joins the party. Pick No. 3 for the Rattlers on the day.
The clock wind has begun. The Rattlers ran three times in a row, despite being in the red zone. The drive ended with a missed field goal.
Rattlers are still up 35-0 with 12:28 left in the game.
Rattlers win 42-6. Ouch.