FAMU escapes North Carolina Central’s pass rush

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Ryan Stanley moved closer to another record and Xavier Smith registered over 100 yards receiving as the Florida A&M University football team held off North Carolina Central, 28-21, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) game during homecoming at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Stanley, who came into Saturday’s conference game needing 333 yards to pass Quinn Gray’s all-time career passing mark of 7,378 yards, threw four touchdown passes and threw for 306 yards. Smith caught the final two touchdown passes, including the game winner with 32 seconds left.

Florida A&M come up with a 28-21 win against North Carolina Central University during the school’s homecoming weekend. Photo credit: Stanley Denmark, FAMU Athletics

The Rattlers (4-1 overall, 2-0 MEAC) wasted little time putting points on the board. Florida A&M received the opening kickoff and went 65 yards in just four plays, taking 1:01 off the clock as Stanley connected with David Manigo for 22 yards to give FAMU a quick 7-0 lead with 13:59 remaining in the first quarter.

Florida A&M extended the advantage to 14-0 as Stanley found Marcus Williams in the left corner of the endzone with 8:01 left in the first half.

The Eagles (2-4, 1-1) cut the deficit to 14-7 with a 12-play, 60-yard drive as Davius Richard scored from 1-yard out with a little less than two minutes remaining in the second.

North Carolina Central tied the game at 14 as Ryan McDaniel caught an 18-yard pass from Richard to complete a 10-play, 89-yard drive with 6:53 left in the third quarter.

The score remained tied until the Rattlers completed a 9-play, 74-yard drive as Stanley found Smith for a 13-yard strike, giving FAMU a 21-14 lead with 7:57 remaining.

Florida A&M come up with a 28-21 win against North Carolina Central University during the school’s homecoming weekend. Photo credit: Stanley Denmark, FAMU Athletics

But back came North Carolina Central as Richard connected with Tyler Barnes on fourth for a 16-yard touchdown, tying the game at 21 with 4:25 left.

That set the stage for the epic final drive as Florida A&M marched 65 yards in 10 plays, with Smith diving in on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Stanley, giving the Rattlers the 28-21 advantage with just 32 seconds remaining.

The Eagles had one final chance, but Richard’s final attempt was picked off by Andrew Hines to seal the Florida A&M victory.

Turning Point

An Xavier Smith touchdown with 7:57 remaining capped a 9-play, 74-yard drive, which gave the Rattlers a 21-14 lead.

However, North Carolina Central marched down the field and converted a 4th-and-4 from the FAMU 16 as Davius Richard threw a 16-yard touchdown to Tyler Barnes, tying the game at 21 with 4:25 left.

Florida A&M came up with the right defensive stops at the right time to deny upset-minded North Carolina Central University from spoiling their homecoming weekend. Photo credit: Stanley Denmark, FAMU Athletics

The Rattlers got the ball at their own 35 to start the final drive and moved the ball down the field as Ryan Stanley connected with Bishop Bonnett for 14 yards and three plays later, Smith caught a 25-yard pass to set up first down at the NCCU 18.

On 3rd-and-14, Stanley fired a 20-yard pass to Smith for a fresh set of downs and the ball at the Eagles’ 2-yardline.

After a Terrell Jennings rush for no gain, FAMU called timeout with 38 seconds left.

Smith’s number was called as he caught the ball in the backfield and dove into the endzone for the game-winning score.

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