In their 61st meeting, the Florida A&M Rattlers were able to pull out a close victory over longtime rivals the Southern University Jaguars, FAMU quarterback Ryan Stanley was able to lead his team to victory in the closing seconds to secure a 27-21 victory extending the series lead for the Rattlers 34-26-1.
In a game that served as an emotional roller coaster for both respective fanbases, fans got to witness what may be considered as an instant classic. With 27,191 fans in attendance for the much- anticipated game of the weekend, this marker served as a new milestone for Bragg Memorial Stadium, as this broke the previous attendance record (19,028) for the largest non-homecoming crowd since 1999, which also featured Southern University.
“I don’t know if I have ever heard it this loud in Bragg Memorial Stadium in a long time,” FAMU head coach Willie Simmons said. “Even with my headsets on, I made a comment saying “it is loud down here,” Simmons exclaimed.
With the Rattlers looking to establish their offensive rhythm early on, they did just that. With Stanley orchestrating the Rattlers offense, he saw himself complete 10 of his first 11 passes for 150 yards, and a passing touchdown, that led to a 17-0 first-quarter lead and quite possibly some eardrums being busted as well.
With college football being one of the few sports where momentum serves as a pendulum that can easily swing the balance of power from one team to another within an instance, this seemed to be the case for the Jaguars.
As the Rattlers entered halftime with a comfortable 19-7 lead, Southern slowly but surely clawed their way back into the game entering the second half. Ladarius Skelton led the charge for the Jaguars, as he completed a 23-yard pass to Jamar Washington with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter, cutting the Rattlers lead down to 19-14 and took one in for himself giving the Jaguars a 21-19 lead to begin the fourth quarter.
As Rattler fans in Bragg Memorial Stadium held their hands over their mouths for what seemed like an eternity, while showing visible signs of frustration by rubbing their faces in their hands, Stanley showed his maturity and leadership as a quarterback by methodically moving the ball down the field as time winding down.
“That’s my job, Coach Simmons puts it on me and told me to just drive the car,” Stanley stated. “I have all the weapons around me like Azende (Rey), Xavier (Smith), and I just have guys around me to where I don’t have to do anything too special.”
Stanley finished his night going 24-39 to go along with 355 yards and two passing touchdowns, and an interception, yet he was able to connect with his fellow teammate Xavier Smith on multiple occasions, which eventually lead to the 17-yard go-ahead touchdown, giving the Rattlers a 27-21 lead with 3:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Smith finished his night with 9 receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown, he was able to describe the chemistry him and Stanley share on the field.
“It starts in practice, he knows when I’m breaking on routes, he knows what routes I’m running and it just trickles over to the game,” Smith said.
With all signs of momentum pointing in their direction, FAMU (2-1) will look clinch their third win in a row as they start conference play next week against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rival Norfolk State (1-3).
The game will take place at Dick Price Stadium in Norfolk, Va. and will begin at 4 p.m.