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Virginia Tech at Virginia is the Champs Sports Bowl Game Of The Week

{Images courtesy Bethune-Cookman Athletics)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The sixth-best rushing offense in the Football Championship Subdivision proved typically efficient on Saturday afternoon as Bethune-Cookman gained 259 yards on the ground en route to a 26-16 win over rival Florida A&M in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Classic at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Bolstered by five Rattler turnovers, the Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 MEAC) won their first Classic since 2007, snapping a three-game skid against FAMU (7-4, 5-3 MEAC) before a large and festive Orlando crowd of 60,218.

Isidore Jackson earned Bethune-Cookman’s MVP honor, gaining 88 yards on 19 carries to spearhead a Wildcat rushing game which also saw five different ball carriers gain at least 32 yards on the ground. Quarterback Damien Fleming was the Rattlers’ MVP, completing 21-of-38 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns but with three interceptions.

The Rattler special teams set FAMU up for the game’s opening score as a 58-yard punt by Branden Holdren helped pin B-CU in at its own four yard line. After the Rattler defense held, Anthony Shutt blocked Kory Kowalski’s punt from his own end zone giving FAMU the ball first-and-goal at the B-CU nine. Trevor Scott’s 19-yard field goal put FAMU up 3-0 just over five and a half minutes into play.

Overall it was the dominance of the defenses which stood out early as the teams combined for 66 yards of total offense and three first downs in the first quarter.

It was the Wildcat offense which would break through this malaise however as the second stanza began. B-CU marched 76 yards on 15 plays, hanging onto the ball for 6:45, and recorded the contest’s first touchdown when Anthony Jordan fought four yards to the end zone on a draw play. Wilson led the Wildcats on the march by completing 6-of-7 passes for 46 yards. In addition to his touchdown, Jordan also converted on a fourth-and-two at the FAMU 12, rewarding head coach Brian Jenkins’ confidence in his offense when a 29-yard field goal attempt would have both likely knotted the score and satisfied many.

The Rattlers bit back on the ensuing possession. Keyed by a 26-yard 3rd-and-5 completion over the middle from Fleming to Kevin Elliott and a 12-yard scramble by Fleming, FAMU marched 56 yards down to the B-CU 12. The Wildcats would rise up however and stop the Rattlers when Ryan Davis sacked Fleming, forcing a fumble that was cradled by Wildcat Harold Love III. B-CU marched 65 yards from there on 11 plays, most of them rushes, and added to its score when Sven Hurd converted on a 33-yard field goal to put the Wildcats on top 10-3 with 1:10 left before the fabled bands took to the field.

The musical combatants significantly extended the scheduled performance window and B-CU was penalized 10 yards before the second half began. It mattered not as the Wildcats rolled 61 yards on five plays for a touchdown on the opening drive to go up 17-3. Orlando native and senior Jonathan Moment had one last moment in the sun as a Wildcat in his hometown, capping the drive with a 43-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.

FAMU answered quickly with a deft 62-yard catch and run for a touchdown by Brian Tyms who caught a medium-range crossing pass from Fleming in stride and out-raced the Wildcat defense to the goal line. The quick strike by the Rattlers cut their deficit to just 17-10 early in the third quarter.

The next score would be for black-clad Bethune-Cookman. Gaining possession when D.J. Howard intercepted a Fleming pass at the Rattler 41, the Wildcats needed six plays to reach pay dirt. Jordan’s second touchdown of the day, a six-yard run up the middle between a sea of orange jerseys, extended the B-CU lead to 24-10 with 5:33 left in the penultimate stanza.

Two points went on the scoreboard for B-CU, making it a 26-10 game, with 9:22 left in the contest. Backed up to its own six yard line, a FAMU shotgun snap was low and rolled past Fleming who touched the ball while out of bounds at the back of the end zone.

While the Bethune-Cookman ground attack helped keep the clock moving on its possessions, FAMU’s abundance of turnovers also plagued the Rattlers after the extended intermission. Following its touchdown march to open the second half, Florida A&M would turn the ball over on three of its next four possessions, an unfortunate string interrupted only by the safety.

The Rattler attack clicked into high gear as time dwindled with Fleming leading his squad on an 11-play, 85-yard drive that was capped by a six-yard touchdown pass to Dewayne Harvey, closing the gap to 26-16 with an unlucky 13 seconds remaining in the affair. A two-point conversion pass was incomplete. Key plays on the drive were a 32-yard completion to Lenworth Lennon and an 18-yard Fleming scramble on 3rd-and-10 that got the march rolling.

An onside kick was recovered by the Wildcats as Bethune-Cookman, along with securing the ball, secured victory in the annual rivalry contest.

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