The Jackson State Tigers spoiled the SWAC debut of the Florida A&M Rattlers, defeating them 7-6 in the Orange Blossom Classic.
The Orange Blossom Classic is an annual game that was played by Florida A&M beginning in 1933 against a select HBCU football team in Orange Bowl Stadium before it was disbanded in 1978.
Florida A&M held an overall record of 26-19-1 in the Orange Blossom Classic, including winning in each of their last eight and nine of the last 10.
The game was supposed to return in the 2020 season seeing Florida A&M face the Albany State Golden Rams of the Division II’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the game to be cancelled.
Jackson State is coming off a spring season in which it played seven games while finishing with a 4-3 record. They ended their season prematurely when a game against Prairie View A&M was cancelled due to COVID protocols.
Florida A&M opted not to play any games in the spring along with the majority of MEAC teams. In the 2019 season, they were spectacular with a 9-2 record and 7-1 in conference, finishing the season ranked 20th in the FCS Stats Perform Poll and 21st overall in the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll.
Their season was highlighted by the play of senior quarterback Ryan Stanley who finished the season leading the MEAC in passing yards per game (256.6) and passing touchdowns (23) on his was to being named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. Stanley set school records in career passing yards, completions, attempts and passing touchdowns.
This was the first game for Florida A&M their move from the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) was made official on July 1. This will be their first season away from the MEAC since 2004 when they spent a season as a Division I independent team.
Jackson State freshman quarterback and son of coach Prime Shedeur Sanders played well in his debut,finishing with 221 passing yards on 18-of-24 passing while scoring the lone touchdown of the game on a quarterback sneak.
Tigers freshman receiver Trevonte Rucker led the team with 83 receiving yards on three receptions while senior Joshua Lanier had six receptions for 61 yards.
On defense, freshman defensive back Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig played very well posting six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Florida A&M began the game with redshirt junior Rasean McKay at quarterback before moving on to freshman Junior Muratovic later in the game. McKay finished with 78 passing yards on 18-of-29 passing while Muratovic had 47 passing yards on 5-of-12 passing.
Senior wide receiver led the team with 49 receiving yards on seven catches while junior David Manigo had 43 receiving yards on three receptions. Senior running back Bishop Bonnett led the offense recording 76 rushing yards on 15 attempts and a forced fumble.
Rattlers senior defensive back and NFL draft prospect Markquese Bell impressed in his season debut finishing with two tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack. Meanwhile, freshman Winsome Frazier had a tackle for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Florida A&M will be on their home field next weekend when they face the SIAC’s Fort Valley State Wildcats while Jackson State will travel to Memphis, Tennessee to play the Tennessee State Tigers in the Southern Heritage Classic.