ORLANDO, Fla. -- Defense wins championships, and Bethune-Cookman is back in the FCS playoffs after a controlling defensive effort against Florida A&M Saturday in the Florida Classic.
The Wildcats (10-2 overall, 7-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) defeated the Rattlers (3-9, 2-6) for the third consecutive time, earned a share of the conference championship and clinched an automatic berth to the FCS playoffs next week. It will be the Wildcats' third appearance in the playoffs in the past four years. They lost to New Hampshire in 2010 -- Brian Jenkins' first season as the Wildcats coach -- and Coastal Carolina last year.
Williams rushed for 70 yards and completed seven of ten passes for 95 more, while Jackson gained 96 yards on 29 carries as the Wildcats held the ball for 36:48 and outgained the Rattlers 289-89.
The Rattlers' lone touchdown was a Jonathan Pillow 45-yard fumble return in the third quarter. Florida A&M's offense managed just eight first downs, converted only two of 12 on third downs, and never got inside the Bethune-Cookman 30-yard line.
"We knew we could play defense like we did today," said Jenkins, whose team has won ten games twice in his four-year tenure. When you have coaches like I do for defense, you can only have confidence they're going to play lights-out."
Florida A&M capitalized on a Bethune-Cookman fumble to take an early 3-0 lead on Chase Varnadore's 41-yard field goal with 9:58 remaining in the opening period. The Wildcats took over after that.
Williams scored on runs of 10 and 17 yards to cap off Wildcat scoring drives of 79 and 66 yards on the next two possessions. After recovering a Rattler fumble on the Florida A&M 16, Bethune-Cookman took a 21-3 lead on a three-yard Jackson run with 4:41 remaining in the first half. Bethune-Cookman's defense held the Rattlers to three first downs and 34 total yards in the first half.
Williams left the game after giving up the fumble on a hard hit that Pillow took in for the touchdown. The Wildcats struggled on offense most of the second half.
"I'm a little disappointed with the offense and a little disappointed with (Williams)," Jenkins said. "Quentin could run into a brick truck and get up."
Al-Tere McBurse had 32 rushing yards for the Rattlers. Redshirt freshman Carson Royal completed just 3 of 19 passes for 17 yards.
"We never found a tempo on offense where we could move the ball down the field," said Florida A&M coach Earl Holmes.
Bethune-Cookman will find out its playoff opponent Sunday.
"Believe it or not, I'm going to take a breather," Jenkins said. "Then we'll see what's in store for us."