Coming off a heartbreaking 33-19 defeat at the hands of Bethune-Cookman University in the Florida Classic, the Rattlers saw their chances of hoisting the conference title and booking a trip to Atlanta’s Celebration Bowl vanish right in front of their eyes as Tydarius Peters intercepted Ryan Stanley’s pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
With many Rattlers fans being left speechless after a promising (6-2, 5-1 MEAC) start to the season, seeing it all crumble down within a matter of three weeks in part due to injuries to key players such as wide receiver Chad Hunter and running back Bishop Bonnett entering Saturday’s game against B-CU, only added salt to the wound.
While the Rattlers did not necessarily end on a high note to close out their season (losing their last three games in a row), they were able to surpass the preseason expectations set upon them, and were able to finish two spots higher than their projected ranking within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
In the team’s post-game conference FAMU head coach Willie Simmons praised his team for their comradery and the effort they put forth all season.
“What these guys did was come together better than any other team I’ve been around and for that, we are (FAMU coaching staff) thankful for them. We are also thankful for the unwavering support that we got from FAMU Nation and the excitement we were able to bring back to this program,” Simmons said.
Like all sports fans, we more often than not only seek out the worst in a team’s losses, rather than providing actual context and reflecting on the positives throughout the course of a season. Not only did first-year head coach Willie Simmons double the Rattlers wins compared to last season where they saw themselves finish with a 3-8 record and near the bottom of the MEAC standings, but he provided the Rattlers with their first winning season since 2011.
Along with it being Simmons’ first year as the Rattler’s head coach, Simmons was able to turn FAMU into one of the conference’s most prolific offenses with his installation of the gulf-coast, no-huddle system, which averaged around 26.4 points per game (34 points per game in their six wins). Not only were the Rattlers able to score on opponents at will, but it allowed a talented wide receiving core with the likes of Hunter (43 receptions for 555 yards and 6 touchdowns), Xavier Smith (52 receptions, 727 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Marcus Williams (31 receptions for 434 yards and 4 touchdowns) to put on an absolute show each time they stepped on the field
The Rattlers defense also showed margins of improvement this year and was constantly able to get pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback with 18 sacks to end the season and only allowed opposing teams to convert an average of 32 percent of their third downs
With the Rattlers only scratching the surface of what they can possibly be on both sides of the ball moving forward, the future of Florida A&M Football seems to be brighter than ever with coach Simmons leading the charge.