Bye week a time for rest but not relaxation

How do you beat a team that averages over 35 points per game, and has won four of its last five games? Nearly three weeks of preparation is a good place to start.

The Florida A&M University football team has 20 full days to break down film, heal nagging injuries, and perfect its game plan before facing off in the 25th Annual Florida Classic.

“This off time is very important,” senior punter Damon Miller said. “It gives people a chance to heal from injuries and fine tune any inconsistencies in their game.”

The Rattlers’ opponent, Bethune-Cookman College, is currently 5-2, and is ranked no. 2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Wildcats are led by a potent offensive attack, featuring quarterbacks Jimmie Russell and Jarod Rucker.

Russell has recently been named the MEAC Rookie of the Week for his efforts in last week’s win over North Carolina A&T State University. Replacing the injured Rucker, Russell threw three touchdowns, completing over 78 percent of his passes in the Wildcat win.

FAMU, however, has a 3-6 record and has lost three of its last four games. In its last outing against Florida Atlantic University, the Rattlers surrendered 591 total yards and were routed by a score of 38-8.

Heading into its match-up with B-CC, Florida A&M’s defense plans to learn as much about the Wildcat offense as possible.

“We have two weeks to watch a lot of film and get prepared for the ins and outs of B-CC’s offense,” senior defensive back Devvin Richardson said. “We know we don’t have to focus on anyone except B-CC, and we will be prepared.”

In an interview earlier this season, Head Coach Billy Joe stressed the importance of preparation.

“We need practice in order to be fundamentally sound,” Joe said. “Practice affects our timing and our refinement.”

The Rattlers will have plenty of time to prepare as they face a team Joe compares to Nicholls State. If the Wildcat attack bears any resemblance to the Colonels, FAMU will need to once again prepare to face an option attack that has given the school so much trouble in the past.

Although there is no such thing as being too prepared, some may argue too much off time could also have a negative effect on a team.

“When you come off of a long bye week often times you’re a little rusty, and you don’t want to be rusty going against B-CC,” Miller said.

Conversely, some teammates feel the bye week couldn’t have come at a better point in the season.

“With the type of schedule we had this year, this break is well deserved,” Richardson said. “Facing the caliber of teams in which we’ve faced, this break will do us a lot of good. As long as we keep the practices up tempo, we should be fine.”

Last year’s Classic was described a thriller as Bethune-Cookman edged FAMU 39-35, in front of a classic record attendance of 73,358 people. The Wildcats have won the last two Classic games and the Rattlers are well aware of it.

“This is a rivalry game, and it means so much more,” Richardson said. “No one on the team will have a problem getting motivated for this game.”

Contact Deanna L. Carpenter at