Few would have thought that the Rattlers would end on a losing streak after starting the season off 5-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but the Florida A&M Rattlers football team left a bitter sweet taste in front of 52,142 fans at Camping World Stadium after losing to Bethune Cookman 33-19.
FAMU (6-5, 5-2) finished the season losing three straight games, and with North Carolina A&T’s win over North Carolina Central, they are knocked out of the conference title race and will miss the invite to the Celebration Bowl.
The tough loss makes it the eighth consecutive loss in the Florida Classic for the Rattlers, and the veteran players on the team felt the sting of defeat for their last college career game.
“These guys have been through a lot. Like I told these senior guys, this is your third head coach, probably third or fourth head director and third or fourth president, said head coach Willie Simmons. “They had every reason to quit but these guys did what they did, and they came together probably like no other team I’ve ever been around and for that I thank them.”
Tydarius Peters was a huge factor in the win for the Wildcats, as he recorded eight tackles with two interceptions in the fourth quarter for 92 yards.
BCU Quarterback Jabari Dunham’s 5-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave Bethune Cookman a lift over the Rattlers 26-19. Peter’s then picked off Stanley’s pass on the Rattlers next possession. The Rattlers regrouped though and forced a three-and-out putting the offense on the field with one last chance to tie the game.
Stanley got the offense to the Wildcats’ 11-yard line after a 10-play drive, only to get intercepted by Peters once again, this time for a 90-yard touchdown to seal the game for the Wildcats.
“Every game you have to come out and play your best,” said Peters. “This is my first classic, so I knew I had to come out and give it my all.”
The Wildcats may have had some bumpy roads in the beginning of the season, but found a way to end their season on a high note with a three-game win streak
“It’s great to end the season on a win streak. I think earlier in the season we had a lot of older guys and sometimes as coaches we do too much, and that’s what we did,” said Wildcats coach Terry Sims.
This is the first time since the 2011 season that both teams have entered the classic with a winning record, which could mean the start of a new era for both programs. Though the Rattlers lost, coach Simmons still likes the direction his program is headed.
“But they really bought into what we're trying to build here, and like I told them, all the great programs that I've seen had to start like this. First season around .500, a little bit over. But, again, those guys came back and believed in what we were doing and now they're some of the top programs in the country. And I truly believe that this program is on its way to doing the same thing.”
The Rattlers still finished with a winning season and ended with the third best record in the MEAC and will look forward to improving next season.