The Florida Classic is the largest football game in the nation between two historically black colleges. After experiencing Bethune-Cookman’s thrilling 31-27 victory over a red-hot Florida A&M squad this year, you can make a great case that the Florida Classic is not only the biggest, but also the best football game in HBCU sports.
In honor of BCU’s 9th straight Florida Classic win, here are the Top 9 moments from this weekend’s contest.
Trevor Merritt’s pick six – You don’t usually highlight a play 7 minutes into the first quarter as the game’s most important but Merritt’s 23-yard interception and touchdown return of FAMU’s Ryan Stanley may have been just that. After struggling in the prior 3 games and failing to convert on the game’s opening possession, the Wildcats needed to grab early momentum in the game. Merritt’s pick six provided the spark needed and helped set the tone for the rest of the evening. BCU led most of the contest, finished with 3 turnovers and Merritt earned the Week 13 Black College Football Player of the Year Spotlight for his efforts.
Steffon with the smooth 28 yard TD grab – Midway through the 2nd quarter, Akevious Williams hooked up with Steffon Francois for a 28 yard TD. Francois beat the cover and hauled in a spectacular catch, twisted and lunged to put BCU up 21-7.
Middle Finger U – A big shout out to Donovan Wells and the Marching Wildcats for forming an amazing “deuces” picture formation at halftime. In route to forming the 2 finger deuces sign, the middle finger transitioned into position first creating what could be construed as…well let’s just call it a middle finger salute. Rather this was intentional or not, I think fans “got the point” to use the words of Marching Wildcats announcer Ken Moore.
Scoop and almost score – FAMU started to seize momentum in the contest and trailed 21-20 late in the 3rd Linebacker Marquis Hendrix ended the Rattler drive when he forced a Ryan Stanley fumble and Devin James scooped up the loose ball and appeared to run it in for a score. Replay officials determined James stepped out at the FAMU 11 yard line but 4 plays later, wide receiver Jonathon Thomas converted his first college field goal to push the Wildcats ahead 24-20.
Akevious to Francois to setup the game winner – BCU took over possession of the football with 5:38 remaining in the contest and trailing 27-24. On 2nd down and 25, Williams found Francois running free in the middle of the field. The two connected on a 44 yard pitch and catch setting up the game winner.
Washington scores the game winner – One play after the Williams to Francois 44 yard reception, running back Isaac Washington scored from 15 yards out to put BCU ahead 31-27. The 15 yard score ended up being the final of the game. “A lot of things could have went bad on that play but thank God they didn’t” Washington stated after the contest. When pressed about what could have went bad and whether it was a broken play, Washington stated the details would remain between him and the quarterback but did state “God was looking out for us”.
JT Money – Wide Receiver Jonathon Thomas was pressed into emergency place kicking duties after Xavier McDonald injured his ankle in practice on Thursday. Thomas, who kicked extra points and field goals at Treasure Coast High School, accounted for 7 points going 4/4 on extra points and 1/2 on field goals. For the record, BCU won by 4 points. Big props to the JT and the coaching staffing for coming up clutch.
Devin James seals the deal – Speaking of Treasure Coast High School, Thomas high school teammate Devin James picked off Stanley on 4th and 3 on the Rattlers last drive of the evening. Not only did James’ pick seal the Wildcats 9th straight FL Classic win, it was also the 3rd consecutive year that BCU ended FAMU’s potential game winning drive with an interception of Ryan Stanley. Diquan Richardson (2017), TyDarius Peters (2018) and Devin James (2019) all ended FAMU’s hope of breaking the streak with final possession INTs.
The Florida Classic itself – The best moment of the weekend was the Florida Classic itself. After years of rebuilding, the Florida Classic is fully back. 55,730 attendees inside the stadium, twice that number outside the stadium, the buzz surrounding the game, the bands, food, trash talk and comradery; yeah The Classic is back. The expectations surrounding this year’s game as well as the supercharged atmosphere throughout the entirety of this year’s contest made this the best Classic in a decade and amongst the best of all-time. Congratulations to Florida A&M on a great season. All Hail to the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University for their “Devine 9” win. Hopefully next year’s game will be as good as this one.