The Rattlers made a statement to Tennessee State and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference on Saturday, beating the Tigers 37-24 in the annual Atlanta Football Classic.
Although FAMU starting quarterback Casey Printers missed his second consecutive game due to an ankle injury, backup quarterback Reggie Hayes was spectacular. He accounted for 275 total yards and 4 total touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) and helped the Rattlers avenge last year’s 27-7 defeat to the Titans.
After giving up a 66-yard run to sophomore Charles Anthony to start the game, the Rattlers (4-1, 2-0 in MEAC) managed to hold TSU (1-4, 0-0 in Ohio Valley Conference) to a field goal. FAMU responded with a touchdown on its first drive of the game, assisted by two Tigers’ personal fouls, and never looked back. The Rattlers scored 20 points in the first quarter alone , despite only having the ball for 1:46.
“It’s something that we knew we had to do to take them out of the game early,” FAMU head coach Billy Joe said.
FAMU safety Levy Brown had an impressive game, as he has done throughout the entire season. In addition to his six tackles and an interception, he returned a blocked field goal 96 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter, to put the Rattlers up by 17. Brown has had at least one interception in each game this season.
“I saw the opportunity and I went for it,” Brown said about the blocked field goal he returned for a touchdown. “(TSU) didn’t cover , so I took off.”
Linebacker Joe Sanders also had a good game for the Rattlers defense, with six tackles (3 for a loss of yards), and an interception early in the game that helped FAMU build their lead.
TSU freshman quarterback Dwayne Buchanan could not get the pass offense going early, only completing six passes for 76 yards by halftime. The Tigers were able to run on the Rattlers defense, gaining 266 yards for the game, but that did little to help them dig out of their 20-point halftime hold. The Tigers were also hurt by the loss of Anthony one of their dynamic pair of backs early in the second quarter. Anthony, who went down with a leg injury, did not return.
Penalties also hurt TSU. The Tigers had 12 for 109 yards, including four personal fouls. Many of those penalties came on key first downs that stopped a potential drive, or in momentum changing situations.
“Our penalties and our slow start really hurt us. We just didn’t get it going tonight,” TSU James Reese said.
TSU attempted to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter, Buchanan threw an 11-yard touchdown to wide receiver Ande Durojaye and a 65-yard score to receiver C.J. Johnson early in the final period to cut the lead to 13, but the Tigers just had to much ground to make up.
“We didn’t have a problem getting up for the game,” Reese said. “Our guys were well prepared.”
The Rattlers will return home next week to play South Carolina State, after going 3-0 in its longest road trip of the season. The Rattlers won its only home game of the season thus far, a 64-6 win against Morris Brown. Four out of FAMU’s next five games are at home and all five are against conference teams.
“I am very pleased with this victory,” Joe said. “We can now go into the home stretch with some momentum. We didn’t play a perfect game, but we played a really good one.