GREENSBORO, N.C. — Yahia Aly’s 26-yard field goal with four seconds left lifted the Florida A&M University Rattlers to a thrilling 22-21 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory over the the defending Black College and MEAC champion North Carolina A&T Aggies, at Aggie Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s game saw the Rattlers taking the champ’s best shots and dishing out enough of their own in a close-quarters fight to score the late-round knockout before a national television audience.
After the Rattlers had climbed to within two points, 21-19 on Ryan Stanley’s 11-yard scoring strike to Chad Hunter with just over 5 minutes left (the two-point conversion failed), the FAMU defense imposed its will on the ensuing Aggie drive, stopping the home team short on third down, forcing A&T to punt the ball away with just over two minutes left.
Rattlers stay undefeated in @MEACSports play, knocking off the champion NCA&T Aggies 22-21, with a field goal with four seconds remaining in the game. The Rattlers sit alone atop the MEAC football standings. #fangsup pic.twitter.com/RP56fgJDI4— FAMU Athletics (@FAMUAthletics) October 13, 2018
Starting their final drive from its own 21-yard line, FAMU mixed in runs from Ricky Henrilus and Azende Rey, along with clutch passes from Stanley, to move within field goal range, running the clock down to 4 seconds before taking a timeout.
Aly, who had missed an earlier PAT on the Rattlers’ first touchdown in the second quarter, nailed this 26-yard kick right down Wahnish Way set off a celebration on the Rattler sidelines.
Saturday’s game, billed by many in the NCAA FCS and Black College media realm as the FCS Game of the Week, turned into the anticipated close quarters fight to the finish.
The challengers from FAMU (5-2, 4-0 MEAC) won their fourth straight game, and tightened their grip on the proverbial catbird’s seat atop the conference, standing now as the lone undefeated team in league play.
Meanwhile, the vanquished Aggies (5-2, 2-1), who came in ranked No. 10, dropped their second last-second heartbreaker at home this season, having fallen to visiting Morgan State, 16-13, here in September on a field goal as time expired.
The Aggies drew first blood, however, in the opening stanza, taking a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.
Speedster Malik Wilson returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a score to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead.
Senior QB Lamar Raynard then extended the Aggies’ lead to 14-0, on a 38-scoring toss to Zach Leslie, with 1:18 left in the quarter.
FAMU got on the board with a defensive score late in the second period, when freshman defensive back Herman Jackson forced a fumble while tackling Aggie RB Marquell Cartwright, then scooped up the loose pigskin, racing 55 yards for a touchdown. Yahia Aly’s PAT try failed, leaving the score, 14-6 with 4:45 left in the half.
The Aggies answered the FAMU defensive tally with a scoring drive of their own, capped by a six-yard TD toss from Raynard to Leslie for a 21-6 count with 1:37 left in the half.
FAMU drew closer to the Aggies in the third period, when Azende Rey capped a Rattler drive with a five-yard TD burst. Aly’s PAT kick was good, cutting the Aggie lead to 21-13 with just over 11 minutes left in the stanza.
The score remained that way deep into the fourth quarter, when the Rattlers mounted a 12-play, 66-yard drive capped by Ryan Stanley’s 11-yard scoring toss to Chad Hunter, slicing the Aggie lead to 21-19 with 5:09 left. The two-point conversion try failed.
FAMU’s defense came up big on the ensuing Aggie drive, forcing A&T to punt the ball away with just over two minutes left, setting the stage for the dramatic knockout of the champs on their home field.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: LB Derrick Mayweather and DE Antonio Miller each had seven tackles to lead the Rattler defense, with Miller picking off an Aggie pass to boot… RBs Ricky Henrilus (33 yards, eight carries) and Deshawn Smith (22 yards on eight carries) led the FAMU ground game, which netted 57 yards on 27 carries…. QB Ryan Stanley posted his second-ever 300-yard passing game collegiately on Saturday, throwing for 313 yards on career highs in completions (28) and attempts (53)…. Chad Hunter finished as the Rattlers’ top receiver with eight catches for 105 yards and one TD, while RB Azende Rey had eight catches as well for 63 yards.
SNAKEBITES: The Aggies were the highest ranked foe beaten by a FAMU team (No. 10 in FCS) since 1999, when the Rattlers took down another North Carolina team on the road, No. 4 Appalachian State, 44-19 in the opening round of the FCS playoffs…. Their 4-0 start in MEAC play is their best start since 2001, when they won their first four games before losing to North Carolina A&T, 55-23 in Greensboro on this date, October 13, 2001…. FAMU can clinch their first winning season since 2011 (7-4) with a win in their final four games.
WHAT’S NEXT: FAMU will have a bye week on October 20, before returning to action the following week, October 27 against the Morgan State Bears in Bragg Stadium at 4 p.m.