Rattlers defeat North Carolina Central to clinch homecoming win

Florida A&M University huddles in the fourth quarter against North Carolina Central University.
Photo submitted by Mylo Jenkins

With Saturday’s game serving as another nail-biter for Florida A&M University, the Rattlers were able to add another story-book ending to their season, as they defeated North Carolina Central University with a late go-ahead touchdown to help seal a 28-21 victory. 

While the Rattlers seem to be no strangers this season when it comes to games that can teeter, either way, FAMU Quarterback Ryan Stanley has repeatedly shown the ability to not get rattled when under pressure. 

Throughout their last three games, the Rattlers have had three straight instances where they have been in a dog fight to put points on the board or get key stops on defense —– and have been successful all three times. 

“When you get in those late minute games it just shows, it’s a testament to your hard work,” Stanley said.

“We did fourth quarter drills in the spring, just fighting to the finish, not getting tired and it shows, this is the third week in a row and we got it in,” Stanley added.

With the homecoming atmosphere taking complete control over Bragg Memorial Stadium, Stanley made his presence known, as he finished his night completing 22 of 32 passes to go along with 306 yards, and 4 passing touchdowns.

With FAMU striking early and often to begin the game, Stanley drove the Rattlers offense down the field in four plays that ended with a touchdown strike to tight end David Manigo. With their offense clicking on all cylinders to end the half, the Rattlers headed into the locker room with a 14-7 lead.

While most road teams would usually get intimidated playing in front of a ruckus crowd, NCCU made it known in the early in the second half that they were not going to just roll over. The Eagles gameplan seemed to be one that was methodical as their comeback featured a 10- play drive that ultimately resulted in a 14-14 tie about midway through the third quarter. 

 In a game that was knick for knack for pretty much the entirety of the second half, the Eagles continued to scratch and crawl their way in the game, as they once again were able to tie the score again, this time at 21-21 all, with under four minutes remaining. 

Florida A&M University Wide Receiever Xavier Smith (19) scores a touchdown against North Carolina Central University at Bragg Memorial Stadium. Photo submitted by Mylo Jenkins.

In what almost seems to be deja vu at this point, Stanley once drove the Rattlers offense down the field and once again connected with Xavier Smith late in the game to put the Rattlers ahead 28-21 with 32 seconds remaining.

 What may have gone unnoticed by many fans throughout that sequence, was the fact that Smith ran the same route in their crunch-time win against Southern University.

“Ryan and I connect on that route so much, so it’s just amazing when you get to the game and do it because we run that route on a regular,” Smith said.

“We run it all the time in practice so when it comes to the game we just make it happen,” Smith said.

Although the Rattlers did pull out a victory, FAMU Head Coach Willie Simmons always strives for perfection and will look to get back to work immediately going into next week’s road matchup against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) conference rival South Carolina State University.

 “We are going to celebrate tonight and get back to work tomorrow, that’s our motto,” Simmons exclaimed.

As FAMU (4-1, 2-0 MEAC) will look to extend their current winning streak to five games in a row, they must first travel to Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg, SC to take on the Bulldogs of South Carolina State (3-1, 1-0 MEAC) next Saturday at 2 p.m.