FAMU one win away from first SWAC title

Photo courtesy: swac.org

Florida A&M will square off in a rematch with Prairie View A&M, but this time for higher stakes.

The Rattlers are hosting the Panthers in the 2023 Pepsi Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship game on Saturday.

The Rattlers are energized after winning three of the five SWAC Postseason Individual Awards. The team also leads the conference with 13 selections to the two All-SWAC Postseason teams.

Willie Simmons was named Coach of the Year, Isaiah Major won Defensive Player of the Year and Jeremy Moussa won Offensive Player of the Year.

“It’s a huge honor. Very blessed … It’s an individual award, but everyone who had a hand in this made it happen,” Simmons said.

Though they won conference awards, the team has its sights set on the ultimate goal of winning the conference championship and ultimately appearing in the school’s first Celebration Bowl.

“[Winning the award is] an honor, but I don’t really look too much into it. At the end of the day if I do my job on the field then good things are going to come,” Moussa said. “I’m just looking forward to have another opportunity on Saturday to do that again.”

Last time the two teams stepped between the lines was on Oct. 28, where the Rattlers won the game in convincing fashion with a final score of 45-7. Moussa led the Rattlers completing 14-25 passes, throwing for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

Even though the last game between the two was decided by a whopping 38 points, this weekend’s game comes with a bit more significance. And as a championship hangs in the balance, the Rattlers are sticking to the same plan that has worked for them throughout the regular season.

“The biggest thing for us is not beating ourselves. We’re facing a team that’s been very opportunistic the last half of the season. They take advantage of turnovers and special teams blunders,” Simmons said. “So, in a championship game format, it’s going to come down to who protects the ball, who gets the other team off the field and doesn’t give the other guys extra possessions.”

The forecasted calls for rain during Saturday’s championship game, but Simmons isn’t worried.

“Whatever elements we’re facing, the other team is facing the same ones. All inclement weather does is expose bad fundamentals,” Simmons said. “I’m looking forward to taking the field with this veteran group and playing good fundamental football. If we do that, regardless of what the conditions are, we’ll be just fine.”

The Rattlers will kick off the championship game at Bragg Memorial Stadium at 4 p.m.