FAMU’s ground game is the biggest surprise of the season so far. The rushing attack is led by sophomore Devvin Richardson and freshman Rashard Pompey, neither of whom were on the preseason two-deep chart. Backup QB Reggie Hayes leads the team in rushing with 387 yards and six touchdowns. The Rattlers are averaging 152 yards per game on the ground this season. The misconception about FAMU’s offense is that the running game is almost nonexistent. On the contrary, the Rattlers usually average well over 100 yards per game every year. Last year, the team gained 158 yards per game on the ground. Coach Joe says he would like one of the backs to step up and become the featured guy this year, but having a running game by committee is definitely working for him.
The special teams have been consistent all year, but not consistently good. It is consistent in the sense that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kickoff and punt return coverage have both been strong so far this season. The Rattlers have not given up a touchdown on special teams yet. However, FAMU has also not scored a touchdown on kick or punt return. The standout play so far was a blocked field goal that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown by Brown against Tennessee State. E.J. Collier leads the team in kick returns (22 yards per return). Brown is only averaging six yards as the team’s punt returner. P Damon Miller is averaging 39 yards per punt. The kicking game has been a good news, bad news situation. The good news is K Juan Vasquez has made all of his field goal attempts. The bad news is he has only attempted four field goals.
Stopping the run may perhaps be the Rattlers Achilles heel. FAMU is giving up 192 yards per game on the ground, with opponents averaging 4.6 yards per carry. These stats may be a little skewed because of the Miami game (312 by those Hurricanes), but the Rattlers also gave up big yards on the ground against Tennessee State (209 yards) and South Carolina State (242 yards). FAMU may still be feeling the effects of the loss of All-America DE Sean Kelly, who went down early in the season with a season-ending knee injury. The lone bright spot in the run defense is that the Rattlers are only giving up one rushing touchdown per game.
The problem with having the historically prolific passing attack that the Rattlers have, is everyone expects it to happen every year. So when a team is struggling in the air, like the Rattlers are, the problems stand out even more. QB Casey Printers has not lived up to his billing thus far, although it may not necessarily be his fault. Printers went down in the third game of the season with an ankle injury. He missed the following two games, and tried to play last Saturday, but was clearly not healthy. Hayes performed well, filling in for Printers, winning both of his starts, but the passing game just has not caught its rhythm yet. The receiving corps, led by Charlie Allen (23 catches, 275 yards, two TD’s) and Dennis Bonga (21 catches, 249 yards, six TD’s), has been plagued by dropped passes on some occasions, but has done a decent job overall.
Joe is on his way to another winning season, which he has done every year so far as the Rattlers head coach. A lot of credit has to go to the coaching staff for the way the team has continued to perform despite being bit hard by the injury bug. Several key players, including Brown, Printers and Kelly, have gone down at points during the season. Running backs coach Allen Bogan, the staff’s most seasoned coach, has done a great job maintaining a strong running game while the pass offense tries to get on track. Also, defensive backs coach Derek Hill deserves recognition for the job he has done with the secondary. The game plans so far, with the exception of the S.C. State game, have been exceptional. The importance of a good coaching staff, especially in a year such as the Rattlers are having in terms of injuries, cannot be measured.