Dramatic upset wasn’t enough to push Florida A&M into FCS playoffs

Florida A&M came in hoping for the dramatic upset, and got it in a showcase for running back Philip Sylvester. He ran for 144 yards and three touchdowns as the Rattlers rattled off 24 unanswered points to hand the first defeat of 2010 to in-state MEAC rival Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic.

The Wildcats had done an admirable job of bottling him up early, allowing just two yards on eight tries in the first half. But Florida A&M began attacking the weak side, and Sylvester broke through for his sixth consecutive 100-yard day.

“They can’t stop it for 60 minutes,” Sylvester said after the 38-27 victory. “You might stop it in the first half but you can’t stop it all game.”

In fact, there was almost no defense to be found. Florida A&M notched its largest offense output of the season (460 total) as the two teams combined for nearly 900 offensive yards. FAMU quarterback Austin Trainor also threw for 261 yards in his third-ever start.

The resulting Florida Classic victory snapped a 10-game winning streak for Bethune-Cookman, and delivered a share of the league title to FAMU, but couldn’t push the Rattlers into the FCS postseason.

A point system was used by the conference, since the football standings actually ended in a three-way tie between Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State.

Each team finished with an identical 7-1 MEAC record. But FAMU had lost to South Carolina State 19-0 in Week 5, while Bethune-Cookman stunned then then-undefeated Bulldogs 14-0 a few weeks later. So, Bethune-Cookman earned the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s automatic bid, and South Carolina State — participants in each of the last two championship subdivision playoffs — earned a coveted at-large berth.

“In my mind we deserve to be in there,” FAMU coach Joe Taylor said, in post-game comments. “South Carolina State beat us. Bethune beat South Carolina. We beat Bethune. To me, it should be obvious that we should be in the playoffs.”

Florida A&M has now won three straight Florida Classic games. This victory, bittersweet thought it may be, meant Taylor became the fastest in program history to win 25 games, doing it in just three seasons.

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