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Alabama A&M Drops 35-31 Heartbreaker In Final Minutes to Florida A&M

Alabama A&M dropped a narrow 35-31 decision in the final minutes against Florida A&M on Saturday.

Posted: Oct 16, 2021 8:18 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Taking on one of the top defensive teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Alabama A&M (3-3, 1-3 SWAC) dropped a narrow 35-31 decision in the final minutes against Florida A&M (4-2, 2-1 SWAC) in an NCAA Division I football game on Saturday, October 16.

Senior running back Gary Quarles (Cottondale, Ala.) led the way for the Bulldogs with 96 yards on the ground and a 21-yard touchdown run while graduate quarterback Aqeel Glass (St. Louis, Mo.) was 16-of-36 for 199 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Xavier Lankford (Pelham, Ala.) also added a two-yard touchdown run on a specialty play.

Junior wide receiver Odieu Hilaire (Belle Glade, Fla.) led the receiving corps with four catches and 65 yards and fellow junior wideout Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim (Miramar, Fla.) added four grabs, 52 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore punter Troy Lendvay (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) chipped in with a 17-yard rush on a fake punt while kicking 10 times for 388 yards to average 38.8 on the day. He also booted one for a long of 64.

On the defensive side of the ball junior safety Trenell Troutman (Orlando, Fla.) once again led the way, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, six solo and two in the backfield, while graduate linebacker Armoni Holloway (Pinson, Ala.) had seven stops and a fumble recovery.

Sophomore cornerback Kenechukwu Eziomume (Decatur, Ga.) had the big play on the day as he scooped up a fumble and ran it back 79-yards for the score and junior safety JaBraun McNeal (Gadsden, Ala.) had seven tackles, including one TFL. Senior cornerback Caleb Riley (Lawrenceville, Ga.) added a 30-yard interception return to round out the top performers.

FAMU wasted no time in getting on the board as they took the opening kickoff and proceeded to go 75 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead just 2:57 in. That drive would feature back-to-back completions of 18- and 19-yards, the latter coming in the endzone to Bishop Bonnett for the score.

Neither team would manage more than a three-and-out on their next possessions before A&M found their offense. That would come in the form of a seven play, 60-yard drive highlighted by a 45-yard strike to Hilaire that took the ball to the Rattlers' four-yard line. Five plays and a penalty later Glass would connect with Ibrahim on a four-yard touchdown pass at the 5:26 mark to even it at 7-7.

The teams would again trade three-and-outs with the second one resulting in a FAMU penalty that negated a 66-yard return to the Bulldogs nine-yard line. Now starting at their own 28-yardline, the Rattlers mounted a 12-play drive that spanned the quarter and went 65 yards, culminating in a 24-yard field goal by Jose Romo-Martinez that made it 10-7 with 13:21 left in the frame.

A&M would manage just 16 yards on five plays on their next possession but would see the defense step up and provide the offense. On the eighth play of FAMU's next drive, Armoni Holloway forced a fumble on a 4th and 1 rush from the Bulldogs 17-yard line.

Eziomume then scooped it up and raced 79 yards down the sideline, outpacing a Rattler defender to hit paydirt and make it 14-10 with 8:03 showing on the clock. Neither team would be able to get anything going the rest of the way as the clubs headed to the break with that four-point margin

That would change on the first possession of the second half, however, as the Bulldogs went 75 yards in nine plays and 2:50. That drive would feature three completions of at least 10-yards, including a 38-yard bomb to Ibrahim that brought the ball to the Florida A&M seven-yard line. Following a five-yard pass interference penalty that put it at the two, Lankford came in for the surprise two-yard TD, making it 21-10 Bulldogs.

It would stay that way over the next four minutes before senior wide receiver Zabrian Moore (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) snagged a 24-yard grab and Quarles broke free up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown to extend to a 28-10 margin. The Rattlers would get off the deck on their next possession covering 70 yards in just five plays.

That would see them pull off an 18-yard catch by Chad Hunter before Terrell Jennings took over. He would be featured over the next four plays, managing a 15-yard rush and 24-yard catch before ending up in the endzone on a 12-yard rush with 6:23 to play.

It would stay 28-16 until the Rattlers got the ball back with just over two minutes left in the third and delivered a six-play, 60-yard drive that capped off with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Hunter just 11 seconds into the fourth. With the extra point they pulled to within five, a margin that Alabama A&M would push to 31-23 on a 38-yard field goal by redshirt-senior kicker Spencer Corey (New Palestine, Ind.) with 5:54 left.

The game would be far from over, however, as Florida A&M came storming back, connecting on a 33-yard touchdown to Jah'Marae Sheread with 4:05 to play. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, however, pushed the game-tying two-point attempt out to the 18-yard line, a distance that the Rattlers could not convert from, leaving them trailing 31-29.

That margin would be made immaterial very quickly as the FAMU defense forced a three-and-out and then, on the first play from scrimmage of their ensuing possession, Bonnett broke off an 80-yard touchdown run to go up 35-31 with 2:15 left.

A failed two-point attempt left it at that four-point margin as the Bulldogs took over from their own 18-yard line. It would not last long, however, as Glass was sacked on the opening play before being intercepted two plays later by Javan Morgan to seal the eventual 35-31 victory.

The Rattlers were led by quarterback Rasean McKay with a 21-of-34 day that saw him throw for 251 yards and three touchdowns while Bonnett erupted for 187 yards on the ground behind just 17 carries. The latter would add an 80-yard touchdown run while Jennings finished with 83 yards and a TD on 19 totes.

Hunter snagged five balls for 71 yards and a score and Sheread had six catches for 53 yards and a TD while Bonnett would chip in with a 19-yard touchdown grab to cap off the top offensive performers.

FAMU's vaunted defense surrendered 31 points, their second most on the season (behind 38 to South Florida) and most to a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, and only recorded four sacks on the day. Two of those came from Gentle Hunt who added six tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss and one from Savion Williams to go with seven stops, two in the backfield.

Deonte Williams had the other sack and Markquese Bell led with a game-high 10 tackles, seven of them solo and one TFL. He was joined Morgan with a pick, BJ Bohler with seven tackles and a pair of TFLs and Nadarius Fagan with seven stops.

The Bulldogs are now off until Saturday, October 30 when they travel Birmingham, Alabama for their annual rivalry game against Alabama State in the 80th Magic City Classic. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at Legion Field.

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