The postseason starts now for Florida A&M, which faces Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic.
To the winner goes championship glory, and maybe a shot to play another week.
Bethune-Cookman (10-0 overall, 7-0 MEAC) has already claimed at least a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown. For FAMU (7-3, 6-1), there is still a chance for a co-championship, and a sixth consecutive league win. The Florida Classic, to be broadcast live on ESPN Classic, could also have FCS playoff implications.
First, the Rattlers had to dispatch pesky Hampton, of course. That job was made more difficult, FAMU coach Joe Taylor rightly noted, when everyone was looking forward to this week’s date in Orlando — an in-state conference rivalry game made even more robust this year.
FAMU running back Philip Sylvester led the way in what became a gritty 17-12 victory over Hampton with another 100-yard rushing performance. Quarterback Austin Trainor, in his second start, went 14-of-31 for 156 yards. Taylor’s defense then held the Pirates in check over the second half to preserve the win.
“As much as we talked about one game at a time,” Taylor said over the weekend, “everybody kept talking to me about Orlando, the Classic and Bethune-Cookman. I’m glad it’s here because now we can concentrate on Bethune-Cookman.”
[Bethune sets record, earns share of MEAC crown; but it doesn’t come easy.]
Sylvester opened with staggering 79-yard touchdown with 10:11 remaining in the first quarter, putting Hampton back on its heels. Saturday was his fifth straight game above the century mark on the ground.
“That’s the first time that has happened to our defense,” Hampton coach Donovan Rose said of Sylvester’s run. “We rallied back. Most of the games this year have been close games. The ball bounced their way a couple times. We didn’t get the breaks.”
Hampton quarterback David Legree connected with receiver Javaris Brown eight times for 141 yards and a touchdown, part of a career-high 299-yard passing day. But FAMU defensive back Curtis Holcomb was clutch when he needed to be, pulling down two picks — one in the end zone, and another on a Hail Mary pass to end the game.