ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) Wildcats (6-5 overall, 4-2 MEAC) and the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Rattlers (6-4 overall, 5-1 MEAC) descended on Orlando once again for the annual Florida Blue Florida Classic at Camping World Stadium Saturday afternoon and this year’s matchup was far more fierce on the field than the last few years.
With a 10-11 record against B-CU since the Florida Classic moved to Orlando, and with new head coach Willie Simmons at the helm, FAMU entered this year’s Florida Classic with something to prove, nailing a field goal in the first scoring drive of the game. The Rattlers were also able to hold the Wildcats during their possession of the ball, keeping the score 3-0 into the second quarter.
However, with 8:33 left in the second quarter, B-CU got the first touchdown of the game and their first score of the game as well with David Israel’s one-yard scramble into the end zone from an all-rushing scoring drive, making the score 7-3.
FAMU on their next drive closed the score gap to one point with a 24-yard field goal, and widened their lead on their next possession with their first touchdown, making the score 13-7 with roughly thirty seconds left in the first half. B-CU quarterback David Israel tried to make the most of the time remaining but wasn’t fruitful, with two incomplete passes and a scramble that resulted in a one-yard loss. The score remained 13-7 at halftime.
B-CU had no third down conversions in the first half, while FAMU were 3 for 6 (50%).
The Wildcats surged in the second half, starting with Tupac Isme’s 99-yard punt return for the touchdown two minutes into the third quarter, creating a one-point lead over FAMU, 14-13. On FAMU’s next possession, B-CU’s Trevor Merritt intercepted the ball and returned for six yards, allowing B-CU to score a field goal on the fourth down, widening the lead to 17-13.
FAMU made up for the deficit on their next possession with a touchdown by way of a 9-yard touchdown pass to George Webb. B-CU managed a two-point conversion as well, tying the score at the end of the third quarter at 19-19.
Much like the third quarter, the Wildcats were explosive at the start of the fourth with a 44-yard pass to Malique Jackson, and at second and goal scored the touchdown with a five-yard rush from Jabari Dunham. With the extra point good, B-CU took the lead at 26-19.
Neither team scored on their next respective possessions, but on FAMU’s following possession, B-CU’s Tydarius Peters intercepted Ryan Stanley’s pass on fourth and 8 and returned for two yards. For another set of possessions, history repeated itself–including Peters intercepting again, this time returning the ball 90 yards for B-CU’s final touchdown, sealing the Wildcats’ victory at 33-19 with 17 seconds left of the game and snatching the MEAC title out of FAMU’s grip.
“…When they snapped the ball, I seen Marques getting up to the quarterback, and I just stayed on the inside hip of the receiver. I saw the quarterback trying to rush the ball, so I hurried up and broke on him, and he threw it right to me, like that.”-Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats offensive linebacker Tydarius Peters on the final interception play of the game
Tydarius Peters, who played in the Florida Classic for the first time this year, was aptly named MVP of the game.
Wildcats Head Coach Terry Sims noted the strategy that got his team the victory during the postgame press conference:
“It was great to have a resilient group…this is a group that just would not lose. They are not going to allow anybody to beat them. You can see that game…the first three-quarters…it was back and forth. You know, two great staffs, two great football teams, two talented football teams. We pushed through at the end and made more plays. And I said it yesterday, the team that made the fewest mistakes, made the most plays, will win the game. And this guy to my immediate right [Tydarius Peters], he made the play to put the cap on the game.”-Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats Head Coach Terry Sims
This is Sims’ eighth straight win against FAMU at the B-CU helm.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org