Mckay, FAMU receivers on roll going into Classic

Rasean McKay threw for 383 yards against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
FAMU photo by Devin Grimes

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Story lines are natural when it comes to the Florida Classic football game. Players are returning to Orlando with either the FAMU Rattlers or Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. Families are split over their allegiance to either school.

This year the conversation is more than likely to include the FAMU receiving corps. Quarterback Rasean McKay made that a viable topic with his performance last weekend in a 37-7 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Rattlers also made a resounding case for an at-large berth into the NCAA FCS playoffs. With an 8-2 record, the Rattlers are the definite favorite going up against the Wildcats (2-8) on Saturday at Camping World Stadium.

But this is a game where records don’t really matter and coach Willie Simmons didn’t appear willing to digress from the weekly grind of preparation. 

“We try to do a good job with our guys; keeping the main thing the main thing and that’s how we prepare and how we play on game day,” Simmons said. “Not really worrying about the opponent, not worrying about the record or anything like that; just playing good football.”

In addition to establishing himself as the team leader against the Lions last weekend, McKay could expect to be a focal point for the Wildcats defense. During last Saturday’s game, he hit three different receivers with scoring strikes in a dominant performance against the Golden Lions. He finished the game passing for 383 yards, which is a career mark since he became the starting quarterback this season.

While accomplishing that, he threw touchdown passes  of 16 and 8 yards to Jah’Marae Sheread. His longest pass of 68 yards was caught by freshman receiver Jermaine Hawkins, who also had a four-yard catch for a score. Nicholas Dixon also had a nine-yard score. 

McKay was nearly perfect early in the game, completing 7 of his first 8 passes. He finished the game hitting 22 of 31 attempts.

It is that kind of performance that will have fans talking about the receivers and their connection with the quarterback, who played just one season of football at Godby High School before going to FAMU in 2018. He was a pitcher for the Cougars before making the switch.

Football is certainly his niche and since the season began he’s been feeding a group of receivers led by Xavier Smith. Lately he’s been finding Sheread a lot. So much so that he has at least one receiving touchdown in his last three games.

While Sheread is almost always in the right place in the slot, McKay said it’s the open man that he looks for anywhere on the field.

“It’s good to connect with all my receivers,” he said. He added that every catch gets attention – even the ones that are made out of the wrong route — but most times it’s about moving on to the next play.

“We don’t pride on that even though the catch is made and was successful,” McKay said. We still like to get it corrected.”

Apart from the three receivers who had touchdown catches against the Lions, there are Chad Hunter, Smith and David Manigo. Smith is the 10th ranked receivers in the SWAC with 49 catches for 544 yards in nine games. Sheread’s touchdowns give him nine for the season and a total of 48 catches for 493 yards on the season.

“Rasean had a phenomenal game with five touchdown passes,” said Simmons. “I thought the receiving corps did a really good job.”

This trip to the Classic will be McKay’s third, but his first as starting quarterback. The magnitude of the game which makes it the biggest in Black college football could be nerve wracking even for the veteran players.

McKay didn’t seem rattled when the topic came up, though.

“It’s the next game,” he said. “That’s how I go into games. I know it’s the last game of our regular SWAC season, but it’s no different.”