For the first time since 2001, Florida A&M will play in the FCS playoffs when they face Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.
Florida A&M had a very good first season in the SWAC, finishing with a 9-2 overall record and a 7-1 conference record, falling just short of a conference championship appearance.
This will be the first time the Rattlers have faced an FCS team outside the MEAC and SWAC since 2017 and the first non-HBCU FCS opponent since 2014.
Southeastern Louisiana ended the regular season with an 8-3 overall record going 6-2 in the Southland Conference.
This is the Lions’ second-straight FCS playoff appearance, and are looking to win a playoff game in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
Keys to Victory
Florida A&M was among the top defenses in the country in the regular season, allowing just 15 points per game, ranking eighth in FCS.
Their success on the defensive end can be attributed to getting pressure on the opposing quarterback recording 38 sacks on the season as a unit.
Leading the charge for Rattlers is linebacker Isaiah Land, who accounted for 19 sacks, which led the FCS. He cemented himself as a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award by also posting 25.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups.
This defense is extremely versatile able to get stops through the air and on the ground as they tied for fifth in the country forcing 24 total turnovers.
They were the only team in the country to record at least 35 sacks, 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.
The Rattlers’ defense is so good, their offense is often underrated by comparison, with quarterback Rasean McKay having an efficient first season as the starter.
McKay averaged 201.7 passing yards per game, completed 60% of his passes, and threw 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
In the backfield, Florida A&M carries a pair of running backs in Bishop Bonnett and Terrell Jennings that can each make big plays on the ground.
Also read: HBCU Football: Bowie State vs Newberry Second Round Division II playoff preview
In contrast to FAMU, Southeastern Louisiana had one of the most elite offenses in the FCS this season.
The Lions led the country in scoring averaging 48.0 points per game. The Lions pass offense ranked second in passing yards per game and third in passing touchdowns.
Their quarterback, Cole Kelley, led the country in passing yards per game and completion percentage of 74% while ranking third in passing touchdowns.
Not only was Kelley lethal through the air, but he is also dangerous with his feet scoring 16 rushing touchdowns, tied for the third-most in the FCS.
He also accounted for 61% of Southeastern Louisiana’s total points during the season.
A big reason for their success through the air is their diverse collection of receivers. They had four different receivers record at least five receiving touchdowns during the season.
While Southeastern Louisiana’s defense is not exactly among the top in the nation, it collected 16 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns.
The Lions also had one of the top red zone defenses in the country ranking just outside of the top 10 in the category.
Florida A&M’s defense will be in for its biggest test they’ve had this season. It will be up to that unit to limit possessions. It is also key that the offense takes care of the ball, not giving the Lions any added advantage in field position.
Southeastern Louisiana 48-31