For 44 minutes, the spirit of Florida A&M Rattlers had the football team leading the Florida Blue Florida Classic. However, FAMU failed to capitalize on late opportunities and make crucial stops as it lost to Bethune-Cookman University 21-16 on Saturday at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Damien Fleming almost completed a late rally after throwing a touchdown pass to Travis Harvey midway through the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to five.
Following a defensive stop, Fleming had 3:49 remaining to complete the comeback but was sacked with a little more than a minute remaining in the game, which sealed the victory for the Wildcats.
“We came up short, and it hurts,” Fleming said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Fleming earned MVP for his performance, completing 18-of-23 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
It was a roller coaster game for FAMU’s offense. The Rattlers (4-7, 4-4 MEAC) engineered long drives but stalled with good field position.
In the second quarter, they gashed the B-CU defense on a three-minute, 97-yard drive. Running backs James Owens and Eddie Rocker combined for 85 yards rushing in the quarter. Owens had a 41-yard touchdown burst that gave the Rattlers an early 10-7 lead.
The Wildcats (9-2, 8-0 MEAC) threatened to score just before the half. However, FAMU stepped up and blocked a potential game-tying field goal before halftime.
Acting head coach Earl Holmes was not scared to blitz. Defenders were in the backfield for much of the game, forcing nine tackles for a loss and two sacks.
However, B-CU converted two key fourth downs late in the game to seal the victory.
Senior running back Isidore Jackson, who was also named MVP, took an option from sophomore quarterback Quentin Williams to the end zone from 34 yards out.
Senior Andronicus Lovette converted the second fourth down, turning a run on fourth-and-3 into a first-and-goal at the Rattlers’ 1-yard line.
Holmes was disappointed after the game.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to win today, but we just came up short,” he said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The loss ended the Rattlers’ season. It is still unclear who will be the next head football coach for FAMU.