The football team is preparing to play its most important span of games this season, a five-game stretch, all against Mid-eastern Athletic Conference teams. It begins this Saturday at home against South Carolina State, perhaps the toughest Division I-AA opponent the Rattlers will face so far.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 0-0 in MEAC), will come into Tallahassee without their star running back, senior South Carolina transfer Derek Watson. Watson will be held out of Saturday’s game after being suspended by head coach Oliver Pough, following his arrest early this week for driving with a suspended license.
Just as important, the Rattlers’ (4-1, 2-0 in MEAC) starting quarterback Casey Printers will return after missing two games due to injury.
“The ankle is coming along very well,” Printers said. “I’ve been getting it treated, and I’m ready to play on it. I feel I’ve been ready for a while.”
Backup quarterback Reggie Hayes filled in remarkably for Printers, winning both of his starts. Against Tennessee State, Hayes gained 275 total yards and accounted for all four of the Rattlers’ offensive touchdowns in the game.
Although FAMU is on a four game winning streak, several players admit that the team has not maximized their full potential as of yet, and would like to do so against the Bulldogs.
“We definitely haven’t opened up the offense as much as we wanted,” wide receiver Dennis Bonga said. “We haven’t had that continuity yet. As soon as we started to get it going, Casey went down. Hopefully, we can start to click again now that he’s back.”
Linebacker Joe Sanders says that the problems aren’t just limited to the offense.
“[The defense] needs to step up our intensity. We have to start getting to the ball a lot quicker,” Sanders said.
FAMU will be going for their seventh-straight win against South Carolina State, and their first win this season against a team with a winning record. The Bulldogs, which finished 6-5 last year, are off to a fast start in Pough’s first year. Pough was the running backs coach for South Carolina under Lou Holtz last year.
FAMU head coach Billy Joe says beating the Bulldogs is important because he feels they will be in contention for the conference title at the end of the season.
“When you’re the two-time defending conference champions, everyone is gunning for you,” Joe said. “South Carolina State is a talented team that is very well coached, and there is not question that we will have our hands full.”
FAMU won their only home game of the season so far, against Morris Brown 64-6.
The Bulldogs have won both of their road games thus far against Bennedict College and Savannah State, outscoring them 102-19. Four out of the next five games are at home, including a three-game home stand starting with Saturday’s game.