The Rattlers were looking to rebound after an ugly loss last week to South Carolina State, but they came up on the short end of a 28-24 score in front of 16,216 people at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
It is only the fourth time in head coach Billy Joe’s eight seasons that the Rattlers (4-3, 2-2) lost consecutive games.
The game went back and forth all night. The lead changed hands four times, with the most important change coming with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter when Howard’s senior quarterback Donald Clark connected with wide receiver Jonathan Brewer on a 37-yard touchdown pass to put the Bison (3-2, 1-1) up for good.
“The ball was put right on the money, and [Brewer] made a great catch,” Joe said. “The bottom line is they executed when they had to and we didn’t.”
Senior quarterback Reggie Hayes brought the Rattlers down the field on its final possession but could not get them in the end zone after four tries from inside the five yard line.
Both teams had a mistake-filled game. The Rattlers had five turnovers, reaching a total of 11 in their past two games. Clark threw an interception to cornerback Shedrick Copeland and lost a fumble on Howard’s first two possessions. The Bison would commit six turnovers for the game, despite coming out with the win.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Hayes said. “You can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win the game.”
Hayes performed well filling in for starting quarterback Casey Printers, who sat this game out after re-aggravating an ankle injury last week. He threw three touchdowns in the first half to three different receivers, helping the Rattlers build a 24-21 halftime lead.
He finished the game 21 of 42 for 337 yards to go along with his three first half touchdowns. But his three interceptions, with two of them coming inside Howard’s 20-yard line, stopped key drives and hurt the Rattlers.
FAMU enjoyed some success running the ball against the Bison early in the game. The Rattlers gained 144 yards for the game, but could not get into the end zone.
“They gave us the pass a lot more than they did the run, and we got away from the running game. We tried to take what they were giving us, but we got greedy,” Hayes said.
The Bison also ran successfully, as has most teams against the Rattlers. Howard’s two offensive touchdowns in the first half came on the ground, a 60-yard run from the team’s leading rusher Jay Colbert, and an 11-yard run from freshman RB Keon Coleman, his first touchdown of the season. The Bison joined a growing list of teams that has run for over 200 yards against the Rattlers with their 295-yard effort (Miami ran for 312, South Carolina State for 242 and Tennessee State for 209).
“When we realized that we could control the line of scrimmage, that’s when we started to pour it on with the run, and it worked for us,” Colbert said.
The Rattlers are 16-4 in games coming off a loss in Joe’s era. The Bison ended an eight game losing streak to the Rattlers. FAMU will finish up their three game home stand next week against North Carolina A&T.