Bethune-Cookman storms back in the fourth quarter to beat FAMU 29-24
Final: B-CU 29, FAMU 24
It was the closest Florida Classic in years, bu tthe result was still the same as the previous six.
Bethune-Cookman scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to win its record-tying seventh straight Florida Classic over Florida A&M here in Camping World Stadium.
The Rattlers went up 24-10 to start the fourth quarter, but Bethune-Cookman scored touchdowns on their final three drives to secure the victory.
FAMU had a chance to win the game, but quarterback Ryan Stanley threw a pick on the Rattlers’ final drive.
Third quarter: FAMU 17, B-CU 10
It hasn’t been FAMU’s prettiest game, but the Rattlers hold a one-touchdown lead over Bethune-Cookman heading into the final frame here in Orlando.
Both offenses have sputtered at times in the second half, but the Rattlers put together a 10-play, 68-yard drive capped by a four-yard touchdown from Ricky Henrilus to take the a 17-10 lead.
Both teams turned the ball over once in the third quater. Devin Bowers threw a pick on a running back pass, which Bethune-Cookman didn’t take addvantage of. FAMU’s defnse forced a fumble, recovered by Antonio Miller.
The Rattlers are still driving heading into the fourth after the B-CU turnover.
Ryan Stanley is 14-of-24 for 206 yards and a touchdown.
Halftime: FAMU 10, B-CU 10
The Rattlers have made it a game in Orlando.
FAMU opened the second quarter with a 30-yard field goal from Yahia Aly, which Bethune-Cookman answered with a 31-yard field goal from Uriel Hernandez.
The Rattlers tied the game with a 31-yard pass from Ryan Stanley to Kareem Smith. That play capped a seven play, 76-yard drive for the Rattlers.
Starting cornerback Orlando McKinley was ejected in the second quarter for targeting.
The game has turned into a battle between the two quarterbacks. FAMU QB Ryan Stanley is 9-of-14 for 151 yards and a touchdown. B-CU signal caller Larry Brihm Jr. is 17-of-22 for 192 yards and a touchdown.
The Rattlers have 187 yards of total offense, while the Wildcats have 204 total yards.
Penalties continue to haunt the Rattlers, they’ve committed eight for 77 yards so far.
B-Cu was driving to end the half, but an intentional grounding call led to a run-off that sapped the remaining seconds off the clock with the Wildcats in FAMU terrtitory.
First quarter: B-CU 7, FAMU 0
Once again, penalties have derailed solid efforts from Florida A&M.
The Rattlers could have had a safety on Bethune-Cookman’s first drive of the game, but a facemask call wiped the defensive score away. An offsides call gave B-CU an easy third down, which the Wildcat’s converted for a 35-yard score.
The Rattlers trail 7-0 after the first quarter.
B-CU quarterback Larry Brihm is 11-of-12 passing for 110 yards and a touchdown, a 35-yard pass to tight end Ja-Quan Lumas.
FAMU’s offense only got the ball once in the first quarter. After two solid plays, the Rattlers stalled in Bethune-Cookman territory and had to punt. The Rattlers have 30 yards of total offense.
FAMU quarterback Ryan Stanley is 1-of-3 passing for 15 yards.
Florida A&M (3-7, 2-5 MEAC) is looking to win its first Florida Classic since 2010. Bethune-Cookman (6-4, 5-2 MEAC) is looking to cap its season with a record-tying seventh straight Classic win. Both teams are out of the running for both a share of the MEAC crown and for the MEAC’s berth in the Celebration Bowl (that’s going to North Carolina A&T).
The Rattlers have been better on offense this season (they’re ranked fourth in both points per game and total yards), but have been derailed by drive-killing penalties and turnovers. A win here would give the Rattlers a second-straight 4-7 overall record, but their conference finish would be just 3-5.
Bethune-Cookman comes into this game with the best pass defense in the MEAC, but it could be argued teams don’t need to pass on the Wildcats often because their run defense is so generous. The Wildcats give up 223.8 yards per game on the ground, second-worst in the MEAC.
Five penalties (or fewer) for FAMU: The Rattlers will play one of their cleanest games of the season, and at the very least, drive-killing penalties won’t derail FAMU’s Florida Classic.
Another 100-yard game for Ricky Henrilus: Bethune-Cookman’s run defense — on paper, anyway — isn’t the best. Henrilus has been on fire over the last three games. I’ll take this matchup all day.
Bethune-Cookman will score first: Did you know the second quarter is when FAMU does most of its damage? The Rattlers have scored 78 points in the second quarter, compared to just 51 in the first. The Wildcats will likely take an early lead.
Players to watch
FAMU RB Ricky Henrilus: See: Bold predictions. If FAMU wants to win, Henrilus will have to get going early.
Bethune-Cookman QB Akevious Williams: This guys torched the Rattlers last season. He picked up 67 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries. His two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter and put the game away for the Wildcats.
FAMU QB Ryan Stanley: I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: FAMU goes the way its quarterback goes. If Ryan Stanley plays well (and he didn’t last season against B-CU) the Rattlers will be fine. If he struggles, this game could go south quickly.
It should be a nice afternoon for some football in Orlando. Temperatures should be in the high 70s (around 79) at kickoff with clear skies. Winds will be at about 8 miles per hour, but no clouds should roll through.
Florida Blue Florida Classic
Postgame Press Conference ‑ B‑CU
November 18, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We’ve got our MVP (quarterback Larry Brihm, Jr.) and our championship team. We’ve got Diquan Richardson, the free safety, and we’ve got our head coach. And congratulations on a seventh straight win in the Florida Blue Florida Classic.
THE MODERATOR: How do you feel, Coach?
COACH SIMS: Great. I’m exhausted but I feel great.
THE MODERATOR: It looks like you played out there.
COACH SIMS: I feel like it.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions. Right in the front, we need a mic.
- Down 14 there in the start of the fourth quarter, you guys got outscored 21-0 at one point. What changed? What clicked in the fourth quarter there? And what does it say about this team again down late and to be able to come back like that?
COACH SIMS: Honestly, nothing changed. We didn’t waver. We have been here before, and that’s everything that was said on our sideline. You know, we have been down before. We’ve had close games before. If you practice this way and prepare your team, then when this situation comes, you don’t have guys panicking. We just continue to play.
- Larry, last time you touched the ball in college, besides the knee, was the game winning touchdown in the Florida Classic, second straight MVP. Summarize this game for you. I mean, you were hot early on and you kind of — there was a lull there in the middle, but then in the fourth quarter you orchestrated two big drives there at the end. Just the emotions going through you as you see a wide open touchdown to win the game there at the end.
LARRY BRIHM: Basically, you know, through the five years that I’ve been here, these games that we’ve played against FAMU has just been a win-win thing for us, and it’s a win mindset, and I wanted to keep that tradition going with this program. I just want to keep our bagging rights, as everybody knows. And it just was a great feeling, a great feeling to get that touchdown in and know that we stole the game with a little time to go.
THE MODERATOR: Diquan, what are your thoughts?
DIQUAN RICHARDSON: It feels good, man. You know, I’m a senior, to leave and win this game right here and get the game‑clinching pick, you know, feels good. You know, go on top of these guys and have the bragging rights the rest of my life. Ain’t never lost to them, so.
THE MODERATOR: There you go. Front row.
- Diquan, can you just kind of summarize your experience at Bethune‑Cookman over the last handful of years, and what you saw in that last play and ultimately to close your career like that? Could you imagine anything better?
DIQUAN RICHARDSON: I couldn’t imagine anything better, to go out on top like that, had a game‑winning pick. And, you know, Coach Sims teach me to stay inside, so I just stayed inside and played my technique and saw the ball and go and make a play. Went and make a play.
DIQUAN RICHARDSON: It’s been great, man. You know, met a lot of great people. Thank Coach Sims for giving me an opportunity to come play here. And it’s been an honor, man. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played with, and I just thank him for letting me come play here. And I just thank him for the opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: If you have any questions, please raise your hand. We’ve got one in the back here.
- Coach Sims, you guys didn’t run the ball that much in the first half. Was that kind of the game plan, or did the flow of the game kind of dictate that for you guys?
COACH SIMS: That’s always the flow of the game for us. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. If they were stopping our run at some point in time and we were throwing the ball and being successful, there was no need to run the ball. We’re going to always do whatever we have to do to win games, regardless if it’s running or throwing.
THE MODERATOR: In the back.
- Coach, two questions: Number 1, the game got a little rough there but you’ve got a lot of energy from the crowd. Could you just talk about what that felt like to be at the Florida Classic, and also just opinion on that from Larry and Diquan, if you will, what did it feel like that to have the band playing and the crowd screaming?
COACH SIMS: It’s great. The atmosphere at the Florida Classic is always great. You know, it’s a great event. From top to bottom, from Friday when we get here, all the way through to tomorrow. Everything is exciting about the Florida Classic and just the atmosphere. But having our band behind us and having our fans who I feel like are super — they stay behind us. They did not waiver. Not one time today. You know, we were down, they were continuing to cheer us on and that gave our team energy. That pushed our team forward. To hear, you know, your fans in the background not downing you, not booing you, but continuing to cheer and root you on and push you forward.
- Coach, talk about Rigby’s play on the fake punt.
COACH SIMS: Well, you know, we watched a lot of tape. We had an opportunity to watch a lot of their games and they tried the fake punt a few times and you know, we just put a lot of extra time in it. You know, me being a special teams guy myself, I’m really big on preparation in special teams because they can win and lose football games for you. So we practiced it a lot and we knew having Cameron Rigby there, who’s one of the heady guys, he’s a guy that you can count on to make those type of plays. He’s a disciplined football player. So we knew we had the right guy in that position just by the punter, you know, at that point in time.
- Just one more thing about the emotion of the game. At the end of the game, we saw many of your seniors crying tears even though you’ve won seven straight of these. So, Larry, Diquan, again, Coach, just talk about that. And, Coach, if you would, just what does that mean to see your players, the emotion of coming out and winning this game, they’re going out and they’re physically shedding tears, hugging coaches and telling them that I love you. What does that mean to you as a coaching man?
COACH SIMS: It means the world to me. I love seeing it because it really means that it means something to them. You know, it’s not just a game to them. You know, we tell our players all the time and it’s the first message they get from me when they get to camp every year. If all you teach is football, then I’m wrong. You know, you’ve got to talk to them about life. You’ve got to teach them about life. And I think that’s how you get to the point where you have wins in a program, because you build men. When you build men wins will come because they understand how to attack situations. I love it. I love to see these guys emotional. I love to see the emotions flying between the coaches and the players because we’ve had a long hard road and, you know, we’ve had some bumps in the road, but these guys never waver. And watching them out there today play and play and play and never give up, never get down.
You know, we had a true freshman running up and down the sideline when they scored the second time telling everybody, it’s going to be okay. We have plenty of time on the clock. When you have that, you know you’re doing the right things in a program, when you have a true freshman that will feels that way.
- Coach Wood said that the fake punt single‑handedly lost them the game. Would you agree that that was the turning point for your team? And for Larry, once Cameron makes that tackle, how did you try to use that surge of momentum on your end and on your side of the ball?
COACH SIMS: Well, I would never say that one play wins or loses a football game. He may have felt that kind of took the air out of his sails or gave us the momentum back and I will say that. It was a momentum swing when we made that play, but, you know, as far as it being the decision or a deciding factor in winning or losing a football game, you know, I don’t know. It was just two guys trying to make a play and Cameron came out on top.
LARRY BRIHM: For me, just the change of field. You know, it’s less yardage that we have to work to, you know, score a touchdown. It was big on us because after you see that, you looked at their sideline and a lot of heads dropped down, which we know that they’re slightly giving up. So we took that as our advantage and just moved the ball.
THE MODERATOR: Front left and then over there.
- Coach, the beginning the year, I know the common theme was resurge for you guys after the down year last year. Seven wins, seven straight Florida Classics, six conference wins. I believe you finished with six of seven down the stretch. I know I asked you this earlier in the week, but where would you say this program is right now as far as compared to a year ago?
COACH SIMS: First of all, let me say resurge is in full effect. I will say this: You know, we had a rough year last year because at one point in time, we had 16 guys out. I had never been a part of anything like that. But the one thing that I can say, and these two guys were involved in that injury‑plagued season, but they came back. They fought; they got stronger; they healed up; and they made it their business to not allow this season to be affected by last season.
So if you want me to say how is it different, you know, I think we had different people on the football field. We had our guys on the field, and we were not relying on young guys, who had not really played college football at all, to go out and win football games, you know. Now we had guys that were used to playing, used to being in battles. And, you know, they understood what it took to win football games.
- Coach, you look at the season, three games on the final play, two fourth quarter comeback drives. Where did that character come from and how was it developed?
COACH SIMS: It’s what we instill in these guys. You know, I don’t think it’s anything, you know, magic that happened. We push our guys every day. And, you know, we have situational practices every day, they’re put in tough situations every day. So when it’s time for this to happen in a football game, they’re not freaking out. They’re not panicking. Just carrying on business as usual.
So, you know, that would be the only way that I really could answer that question. It’s just, you know, everyday life for us.
- Diquan, I think in the third quarter, you had to be helped out and was injured. Can you kind of tell me what happened and, ultimately, did the pain effect you at all throughout the course of the game? What was it — what happened and how were you able to play through it?
DIQUAN RICHARDSON: Well, they said I fractured my hand, fractured the top of my hand. My adrenaline was rushing so I couldn’t really feel it. I just told them, if we score a drop, I’m going back in no matter what. I had to put on my big‑boy pants and go back in the game and finish it up.
DIQUAN RICHARDSON: My right.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Over in the corner.
- Coach, Pete Edwards, WPMT, Tampa.
Any thoughts of the team contemplating moving to a different conference? I’m aware that Hampton is leaving the MEAC. Do you feel that the school is ready to go to a stronger conference within your division?
COACH SIMS: I would not dare touch that question. That’s — that is so far above my pay grade. I’m not going to do it. But, you know, honestly, if you are saying, you know, us moving to a tougher conference, Hampton is moving to the Big South — I don’t really think it’s a tougher conference. When you look at the teams in the Big South, they won’t schedule MEAC teams. There’s a reason why they won’t schedule MEAC teams.
So Hampton, they’re moving for whatever reasons. I don’t know. But to my knowledge, we’re not planning on moving or going anywhere, but that’s a question that we would definitely have to speak with our VP for intercollegiate athletics, Mr. Lynn Thompson and Judge Grimes, our president. So when we start talking about, you know, conference moving or whatever, those would be the guys that would answer that question.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of moving, safe travels back to Daytona Beach. Thanks, guys.
COACH SIMS: Thank you very much.
(End of session.)
Florida Blue Florida Classic
Postgame Press Conference ‑ FAMU
November 18, 2017
THE MODERATOR: To my right, we have an MVP, redshirt sophomore Ryan Stanley and No. 90, left end, Elijah Price. Guys, just opening remarks — congratulations on your MVP and your great effort today.
RYAN STANLEY: Appreciate it. You know, we came out. You know, we did some good things that first half. That was good. Going in 0‑0 going into that second half. We went up two possessions there, going into the fourth. When you go out too late in the game like that, it’s all about finish. We didn’t finish.
THE MODERATOR: Elijah, it sure looked like you guys were going to pull it off today for quite a while.
ELIJAH PRICE: Yeah, I thought so too, but it didn’t end like that, I guess. I don’t know.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s open it up for some questions while we wait for coach, please.
- Ryan, what happened to the offense in that fourth quarter? Bethune‑Cookman was doing so well, and FAMU didn’t seem to have any answers after you guys were playing so well to start the game.
RYAN STANLEY: They didn’t really do anything, switch up anything to stop us. It was more execution on us — dropped balls, misreads, just little stuff like that. They didn’t really switch anything up to stop FAMU. I say we stopped ourselves with, like I said, some of the drop balls, some of the bad throws. Like I said, when you go up by two possessions there in the fourth quarter, you’ve just got to finish that out, man.
THE MODERATOR: Head Coach Alex Wood’s opening remarks today.
COACH WOOD: Good morning, everybody. We lost a tough football game today. These guys beside me, they played great. We made a bad communication, we made a bad coaching choice there with that punt — where that punter took off. We had a plan for it the first half — if I’m trying to score and if we were behind or the game was even — but it was not part of the plan when you go ahead and especially in short field. Now, you know, it’s one of those things, as well, just like I explained to Coach Plummer, if it works, we’re all geniuses. But it wasn’t supposed to be called. Poor communication. That falls on me. That single‑handedly lost this football game today, plain and simple. So, ad coaching decision on my part to let it happen, let that call get to the field, and that’s where we’re at. So I’ll open it up for questions.
THE MODERATOR: Right in the front if you have a question, please raise your happen so we can acknowledge you and hand you microphone.
- Coach, the fake punt call, you said it was bad communication. Who called it? How did it get onto the field in the first place?
COACH WOOD: It was called coming into the game as part of our strategy and if the look is there, go ahead and take it. But also don’t take it if we’re winning the game, and we should have communicated that to our punter. We don’t need to do it here. There’s no need. We’re winning. You know, that was a ploy to try to score points and maintain possession of the football, especially, again, if the game was even or if we were behind. But it wasn’t part of the strategy in that particular case, and so he kept looking for it and it was there and he took it and it didn’t work.
- So that came down to a player decision that the coaches didn’t veto, didn’t call back?
COACH WOOD: We couldn’t. He was on the field already. We couldn’t call it back. And, again, it’s my fault. He shouldn’t have been looking for it anymore. It should have been nixed — ‘Hey, we’re out of that deal. We’ve moved on to something else.’ So it should have never still been on the table and that’s something we should have communicated to him better.
- Bethune‑Cookman’s offense was doing so well in the fourth quarter. They were able to score 14 — 19 points —
COACH WOOD: Well, they got it in the short field off of a fake punt. They got the ball on the short field, and if you get it in the short field, you usually score. And we just, you know — that was part of it. And then I can’t — I can’t recall — it was a short field, I think, both times that they scored, if I’m not mistaken.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, again, on your far right (Price), this is it for him. He’s done a great job for you, and, you know, as a senior —
COACH WOOD: Outstanding job, played hard today. You know, he’s bumped up, bruised up, and he came out and played, and I appreciate it. And he’s played hard all year, played hard for our team, you know, since I took this job.
THE MODERATOR: And this fellow on your left (Stanley), he’s got some gas in the tank left to come back. You’ve got a young team and a lot to learn from today, I’m sure.
COACH WOOD: No, absolutely. We’re got some good players coming back without question, and, you know, we’re excited about that, you know, for FAMU. Yes, sir.
THE MODERATOR: Do you have any questions? If you do, please raise your hand. We’ll get a microphone to you. On this side in the far rear.
- Coach, this year there were so many games, and you’ve got to look back and say what if, but so many situations, so many games are just one‑score games, and one decision, one drop, one interception away from a totally different season. What’s your take on that, Coach?
COACH WOOD: Well, you know, there’s a lot of close games, as you talked about, a lot of good competition during the course of the year, you know, with — inside the MEAC conference‑wise. I’m always, always proud of our guys the way they compete and play, play hard, you know, stick together as a team, you know.
You’re always going to have some back and forth but still when it’s all said and done, these guys stuck together. Just some tough losses all year, and I think that we all need to applaud that because a lot of times young folks, and not only that but old folks, tend not to take adversity and learn how to deal with it. And these guys have a done a great job, and I know they’ve learned. We’ve all learned. We’ve all learned how to be better because of 2017 experiences.
It’s been an interesting year. Obviously, not the one that we had hoped for as we started the season with a big win against Texas Southern, and then obviously things just — we competed but couldn’t finish out. Today — our guys finished today, all right? You know, meathead head coach today, and so that cost us.
THE MODERATOR: A couple more questions. We’ll go to the front. If you have one, please raise your hand.
- Elijah for you, this is your final go-around with Florida A&M. What is your message to the players that are coming back to this team? What message do you want to leave them with as a senior for this program?
ELIJAH PRICE: Mainly stay focused. Do the things that you have to do and mainly finish because, again, like Coach Wood said, we haven’t finished throughout the whole season and that needs to be the motto next year, I guess.
- Hi, Coach. This question is for you. What do you feel would be the greatest takeaway from this game going into the next one?
COACH WOOD: Well, the greatest takeaway is the way we competed for 60 minutes today. I mean, for our guys is to look at that and say, hey, you know… And we’ve known all along what we’re capable of doing. There’s no question about that, but the take away is just learning how to compete and finish out and we did that today, you know. And so you know, the takeaway, is, hey, make sure you’re always prepared and make sure there’s good communication with everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Far right, television podium.
- Coach, final year of your contract. Just for you, what’s kind of the — just for you, what’s the next step moving forward? Have you talked at all with the new interim —
COACH WOOD: Yeah, talked to him but not about that and we’ll decide. We’ll talk about that when we get back to Tallahassee, you know.
THE MODERATOR: All right. So last question for Ryan, just about learning from today and coming back and your experiences.
RYAN STANLEY: Oh, yeah, man. With any loss comes lessons and, you know, we’ve got to bounce back. We tried to get this last one for our seniors. It’s been a rough season. It would have been nice to send them out with a bang, but, you know, just going into this offseason now, just remember these feelings about these losses, the feelings that we feel right now and just push harder and push — get bigger, faster, stronger and just come out and dominate the MEAC next year.
THE MODERATOR: What does it can say about your coach when you learn about leadership when he takes ownership of today?
RYAN STANLEY: I know he takes ownership of it right now, but it’s on us too, to execute. That little fake punt, it is what it is, but, you know, we’ve got to execute. Bottom line, we’ve got to execute. There’s some good calls. I wouldn’t even put it on Coach Wood, coach anyone. We’re just got to execute.
- That was well said.
Going back to the questions of contract, at this point, do you feel FAMU was any better place than when you took over three years ago now?
COACH WOOD: Well, obviously it’s about the same. It’s a push win‑loss wise. But, again, we were on double-secret probation when I took the job. We were in APR trouble, big time. We were on probation, couldn’t play anywhere. We had restrictions on practice. You know, our graduation rate was at 40 percent. Now it is above 75 or 80 in terms of the three years I’ve been there. And even if I’m not there in the fourth year, it’ll still trend higher at an 80 percentile in graduation in the football program, which will push the athletic department way above 60, which it’s never been. We’re not on probation. We’re graduating guys. We just knocked down a 948 APR score because of graduation and retention. Haven’t had a player ineligible anytime any since I’ve been here. So is it in a better spot? Absolutely. We’ve got a great strength coach. When I took the job, I think there might have been — how many guys come to summer school?
ELIJAH PRICE: A lot.
COACH WOOD: This past year? No, I’m talking before I got there.
ELIJAH PRICE: No, not a lot at all.
COACH WOOD: No. We had 107 guys that started my first year. 85 guys just showed up and trained. So is it in a better spot? Without question, yeah. And if we got guys like this — he was there before I got there, okay?
But guys like this coming back, you know, Henrilus and those guys coming back, Hazly, you know, McKinley was there when — well, he came in with us, so in terms of players, yes. And where it’s at in terms of stability, absolutely, it is, yes. But we still have — you know, and I know it’s not just about that. It’s about winning football games at the end of the day, and that’s something we just haven’t gotten done yet.
But, again, on a normal — usually you coach through your senior class, which is four years, coach them guys because you’ve been trying to develop them. And if it don’t work then, then I get it. And I get it today. If that’s the way it goes, I get it. I mean, if that’s the culture, that’s great. No problem. You know, and we’ll just move on and do whatever.
THE MODERATOR: Coach and the players have been —
COACH WOOD: Well, you know, it depends on who you ask. I don’t know. I’m not going to debate that.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s shift to the back right here, please.
- Coach just going along with that, though, when you got here, there was no spring practice available. Do you feel like the buildings blocks are there now, now that you have the graduation rates, you’re out of the sanctions, you have the strength coach. Are the building blocks there to get there?
COACH WOOD: Absolutely. Yes, yes.
And just the same way — my first head coaching job ever was at James Madison University. And I always said that no matter where I go, wherever I leave, it’ll be better than when I arrived. And I know they, not shortly after that, won the conference and won a lot of football games because they had a lot of good players in place. They had a good structure in place. And not that they didn’t before, but it was in good shape when I left and it’ll be the same when and if I leave here.
THE MODERATOR: Coach and the players have been incredibly gracious today, and we thank them for coming in.
COACH WOOD: Thank you all. Have a great Saturday.
(End of session.)