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College football

B-CC downs FAMU with late touchdown

B-CC 39, FAMU 35: Allen Suber hits Eric Weems with 9.8 seconds left to cap a big rally.

By JAMAL THALJI
Published November 23, 2003

ORLANDO - Bethune-Cookman quarterback Allen Suber, 18 yards from the end zone, down by three to rival Florida A&M, the final seconds of his team's season disappearing, takes the shotgun snap and rolls right.

Eric Weems runs to the goal line and breaks right toward the pylon, squeezing past three Rattlers. Suber, the former Tampa Catholic star, cooly waits for the window to the end zone. He sees it then throws.

And as the ball travels from Suber to Weems, one has to wonder:

Why would this game ever stop being played?

Weems cradles the ball as his left foot scrapes the end zone then stumbles out of bounds with 9.8 seconds left. He is mobbed.

Down by 18 at the half, B-CC rallied for a 39-35 victory, outscoring FAMU 29-7 in the second half.

It was the largest comeback in the 24 years of the Florida Classic, played Saturday before a record 73,358 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

The Wildcats (9-2), ranked 15th in the Sports Network Division I-AA poll, bolstered their hopes of an at-large invitation to the I-AA playoffs while handing the Rattlers (6-6) consecutive losses for the third time in series history and the first time since 1979-80.

B-CC also scored its most points in the series, which FAMU still leads 43-12-1.

"I'm proud of them! I'm proud of them!" Wildcats coach Alvin Wyatt said to the mob of cameras around him. "I've never been so proud of them! All of them, they played their hearts out!"

The future of the game is in question, fueled by a disagreement over the failed attempt to broadcast Saturday's game. The contract for the 2004 game is unsigned as FAMU heads to full Division I-A status next season. But on the field, there was no doubt about what this rivalry still means to the players.

"It's tremendous," said B-CC linebacker Steve Baggs, whose sack ended the game. "It's monumental for our program to get a win like this."

It was a tale of two halves, the first dominated by FAMU, the second by B-CC. The Wildcats led 3-0 at one point in the first half only to be dominated by the Rattlers, outgained 273-39 and outscored 28-10 during the half.

FAMU quarterback Ben Dougherty, who was 24-of-37 for a career-high 354 yards and two touchdowns, threw for 193 in the first half. Rashard Pompey ran for two scores, and Dougherty ran for one and threw a 33-yard score to Rod Miller.

Wyatt ripped into his team at halftime, threatening to bench anyone, even Suber, who wasn't ready to win the game.

"When Allen decided he wanted to do something about winning this football game," Wyatt said, "that's when everything turned around."

The Wildcats scored off five Rattlers turnovers and rushed for 210 yards in the second half. Suber ran for a touchdown, a two-point conversion and threw the winning score, and Weems scored on two runs and caught the winning pass.

FAMU could have put the game away several times in the second half. Two bad shotgun snaps, a fumbled punt at the goal line, a botched field-goal snap and an interception doomed FAMU.

"We just did not have the polish and the championship demeanor when it came to crunch time, and that's what B-CC had," Rattlers coach Billy Joe said. "It was crunch time, and B-CC did not get befuddled. They did not come out discombobulated. They shut us down and methodically marched down the field like champions."

Two plays set up the winning score. Dougherty's lone mistake came with 2:04 left, when he misread Miller's route and threw it to the sideline, where B-CC's Tor-El Robinson grabbed the interception.

But B-CC couldn't move the ball. Facing fourth and 17 at the 48, FAMU safety Levy Brown was called for pass interference. He had to be restrained, and the Wildcats got the first down and the chance to win it.

"We just kept fighting and fighting until the end," Robinson said. "Then we just looked to the scoreboard and hoped we came out victorious."

[Last modified November 23, 2003, 01:46:45]


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