The Rattlers will be heading into the Florida Classic to take on the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats in what is expected to be a battle of defenses.
Head coach Earl Holmes said a win in Orlando against the archrival Wildcats (9-2, 6-1 MEAC) would mean momentum and redemption for Florida A&M.
“It’s in-state bragging rights,” Holmes said. “I know it means Bethune lost the conference. It’s a big win for us in 2013.”
The Rattlers (3-8, 2-5 MEAC) are heading into the Florida Classic trusting redshirt freshman quarterback Carson Royal in his second start. Royal threw only one incomplete pass in the first half against Delaware State University on Saturday. He finished the game 18 for 24 with 277 yards, three touchdown passes and three interceptions.
“I got to make sure the offense believes in me,” Royal said. “I have to stay as calm as possible.”
The Rattlers said they understand how big this game is, although there are no playoff chances in their sights.
With a B-CU loss, the Wildcats will lose their chance at winning the MEAC Championship, a title South Carolina State University would claim.
Holmes said the Florida Classic is a chance for FAMU to get a significant win and end the season strong.
“The most important thing is to get the win,” Holmes said. “Records are out the door.”
Since 2002, the Rattlers are 5-6 against B-CU. The last three meetings were decided by 11 points or less, with FAMU’s last win coming in 2010, 38-27. However, the Rattlers lead the all-time series 70-17.
According to senior linebacker Michael Ducre, the key to slowing down the Wildcats is keeping containment at the linebacker position.
“We have been watching film since Sunday,” Ducre said. “[We have to] attack the gaps. They have to hope we guess wrong.”
Holmes feels optimistic about his team’s chances this weekend.
“It’s our defense versus their defense,” Holmes said. “We beat the team they lost to and they beat teams that we lost to. This game can be interesting.”
Kickoff for the Rattlers’ final game of the season is at 2 p.m.