It was a hectic few days for the Florida A&M football team.
Perhaps it started when coach Willie Simmons made the controversial call to start transfer quarterback Jeremy Moussa for the season opener against the University of North Carolina. While this decision shocked the FAMU world, the real shocker came on Friday when it was announced that 26 players on the roster were academically ineligible to play in Saturday’s season opener, including star linebacker Isaiah Land, who previously was recognized as the best defensive player in the FCS.
The oddsmakers had the Rattlers losing this game by as much as 45 points. However, thanks to Moussa and the hard-fighting culture that Simmons has established, the game looked much closer than what people expected.
Moussa was 28-of–38 for 279 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. His performance kept the Rattlers within reach the entire first half. However, the depth and overall skill of the Tar Heels on the defensive side took over in the second half to take the game away.
Simmons had this to say about the performance of his team after the game: “I can’t speak enough to the character and resolve of this football team.
This is a special group of guys and we proved that we belonged tonight …we opened some eyeballs.”
When breaking down how the Tar Heels were able to blow this game away, it all started with quarterback Drake Maye.
Maye was named North Carolina’s starter by head coach Mack Brown. Maye was 29-of-37 for 294 yards and a whopping five touchdowns, showing love to a very deep wide receiver corps.
A school record 10 different players caught passes in the win, but the leader of the pack was receiver Josh Downs, who finished with a smooth nine receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
A player who deserves credit for keeping the sticks moving for the Tar Heels is running back Omarion Hampton.
Hampton finished with 101 yards rushing on only 14 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 25 yards, which ultimately led to the exploiting of the lack of depth that the Rattlers had during the game.
The biggest takeaway from this game is that although the Rattlers could not sustain their promise and praise, they went into the game with their heads held high and made a statement to the collegiate football world. The great thing is that they will no longer have to play another Football Bowl Subdivision team this year, meaning that reaching the goal of at least a nine-win season is very much possible and still in reach.
Florida A&M is scheduled to receive $450,000 for playing North Carolina. This game concluded the celebration of HBCUs this week on the UNC campus.
What’s next? Florida A&M will play Jackson State in Miami on Sunday in the second annual Orange Blossom Classic.