Stanley to Smith for FAMU win becoming familiar
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
With just a little more than 30 seconds left in a tied game against North Carolina Central, FAMU’s coaching staff called one last huddle.
They knew whatever they called Saturday afternoon couldn’t be too time consuming. The players had the right attitude as well so coach Willie Simmons was confident the Rattlers could win a third straight game in the closing minutes.
On top of that, it was homecoming with 25,679 fans in the stand at Bragg Stadium.
“It’s all positive,” Simmons said of the mood before the final play. “It’s up beat. No need to panic. This is why we go through 25 days of August practices. This is why we go through fourth-quarter drills in the springtime. This why we have summer conditioning; for these opportunities.”
And, this is how the Rattlers won it.
Quarterback Ryan Stanley found receiver Xavier Smith on the receiving end of a two-yard corner route pass with 32 seconds left to secure a 28-26 victory. It was the second time of the afternoon in the fourth quarter that Stanley had found Smith for a touchdown pass.
Smith’s first catch at 7:57 into the quarter brought FAMU back into a 14-14 tie. That took the Rattlers nine plays over 74 yards drive that ended with Stanley connecting with Smith for a 13-yard pass.
The Eagle rallies back with 4:25 left in the game on a bold fourth-and-4 from FAMU’s 16 when quarterback Davius Richard found Tyler Barnes for the scored that times the game at 21.
However, as time dwindled, Smith seemed fearless as long as Stanley could find him in the corner.
“Me and Ryan connect so much on that ball on that route so much,” Smith said. “It’s amazing that when we get to the game we just do it. We practice it all the time so when we come to the game we make it happen.
“It shows when we get to the game. It’s just easy. We click, we click, we click. We do it in practice all the time so it just rolls over to the game.”
In all, Smith made nine catches for 129 yards. Stanley threw for 306, including two other touchdown passes. His total left him 26 yards shy of tying Quinn Gray’s school record 7,378 yards and he could get those when FAMU travels to South Carolina State on Saturday.
The victory gave the Rattlers a 4-1 record for their best start since the 2009 season. They are 2-0 in conference games, while the Eagles fell to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
Stanley also rushed the ball three times for 22 yards, including one for a first down. It was one of few times this season that Stanley had impacted a game with his feet.
“He is a very athletic guy,” said Simmons. “He showed that he can make plays when it matters most and continue to be the leader of the football team.”