The Florida A&M football team was able to outlast Southern 27-21 on Saturday in a record-setting home game.
Wideout receiver Xavier Smith, a sophomore health and leisure fitness student from Haines City, went ballistic and showed a crowd of more than 27,000 that he can be a game-changer. Smith recorded a career-high 201 receiving yards on nine receptions.
His touchdown catch with 3:32 left sealed the win for the Rattlers, who are now 2-1. Smith also rushed one time for 11 yards.
The wide receiver led all players on both teams in receptions, yardage, and yards per catch.
With the defense playing as well as it could, applying pressure and getting sacks on Southern quarterback Ladarius Skelton, the Rattlers had to make sure the ball was moving down the field consistently.
The offense played well throughout most of the game with Ryan Stanley throwing for 335 yards and passing two touchdowns against only one interception.
Smith attributes his quarterback for his breakout game, claiming he stepped up when they needed him most.
“Ryan was the reason for my breakout game. Everything we do on offense starts with him and he stepped up and made some big throws which made my job on the field easier,” said Smith, “I probably wouldn’t have had the stats I did if it wasn’t for him.”
Before his record-setting performance against Southern, the wide receiver put up a pedestrian one reception, 20-yard outing in FAMU’s blowout win over Fort Valley State University.
When asking the wide receiver about the drive that sealed the game and what he did to stay composed, he said he remembered what got him to this point in life.
“My mindset was just stay calm and continue to make plays. Don’t try to do too much because the game is on the line, continue to play football and let the game come to me,” said Smith. “In the end it paid off and it led to the catch to seal the game.”
Head coach Willie Simmons was asked about the offensive connection between his quarterback and wideout. He credits the energy and work put into the pre-planning of the game; the practices, the spring workouts among other things.
“Well, that goes back to offseason workouts, that goes back to spring practice … just the work that those guys put in,” Simmons said. “It’s just like Xavier said how he’s going to come out of his breaks, Ryan knows how fast Xavier is coming in and out of cuts, that’s because they’ve spent that time together.”
The Rattlers now go on the road, traveling to Norfolk State this Saturday for a 4 p.m. game.