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Florida A&M Fell to SLU, but Rattlers' Coaches, Players, and Fans Earned Respect

Florida A&M fell to Southeastern Louisiana, the Rattlers Nation should garner respect for their fight and fan support in Hammond, LA.

It was a damp and cold night for football in Louisiana. Though the Rattlers did not leave victorious, it became a perfect night for the FAMU program to build on for the future. 

The Florida A&M Rattlers (9-3) team was outgunned, outmanned, outweighed, and overmatched by Southeastern Louisiana - but they fought and didn't give up.

FAMU's head coach Willie Simmons spoke about his players in the postgame press conference. "I want to say, how proud I am of these young men...at the start of the season, everybody wrote of us, basically didn't give us a chance...I'm proud of these guys. I couldn't ask more than they've given. Their sacrifices, their blood, sweat, and tears."

Coach Willie Simmons

The Rattlers' defense couldn't solve the SLU offensive game plan. Cole Kelley efficiently worked the football down the field, reminiscent of Drew Brees methodically picking apart NFL defenses. He didn't take unnecessary chances and took advantage of the defense presented, and was highly efficient, completing 31 of 49 passes for four touchdowns and one interception.

The Rattlers were snakebitten and lost 38-14, but kudos to Coach Simmons' crew. I noticed how they didn't lose their will to win. Resean McKay (18 completions, 238 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) led his team to erase the goose egg off the board in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives. 

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Unfortunately, it was the proverbial "too much, too little, too late" for the Rattlers. Mounting a serious comeback to rally from a 38 point deficit would have been one for the storybooks, but not on Saturday night. 

So what's next for the Rattlers program? I believe the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors saw firsthand what it would take to win at a higher level. Three times the Rattlers have fallen to more robust programs - Jackson State, FCU, and SLU - and three times they battled through those losses.

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Markquese Bell

2022 will be a different season, of course, for Florida A&M.

Coach Simmons will lose marquee players like Markquese Bell and Xavier Smith, but he may gain much more in terms of recruits and transfers.   

Bell told me he "hasn't signed up for any bowls," and he's "still waiting" to decide on his plans. Experts see Bell as an NFL-level talent and consider him one of the best safety prospects in college football. He was active on the evening with 16 total tackles and one forced fumble.

Willie Simmons, Markquese Bell, Xavier Smith

For most of the postgame press conference, receiver Xavier Smith quietly sat next to Coach Simmons.

I asked him how was it like "playing for a coach like Coach Simmons?"

He responded, "I feel great. This is a coach who would put you in the best position you could possibly be in. You just gotta to make the plays. As far as on the field and off the field, he's a leader that shows us the way to approach the game and approach life, period. So to have for somebody like Coach Simmons, we benefited."

The Rattlers will have high expectations for their football program in 2022. Their fans traveled well to Hammond, Louisiana, to see their team make a valiant effort to win an FCS playoff game. Next season, I can see the FAMU continuing the contentious battles in the SWAC. Maybe, just maybe, they will be causing major concerns for other FCS and FBS teams in the near future.