The Rattlers not only beat their heated rival North Carolina A&T Saturday for the first time since 1998, with this emphatic win they paid tribute to the late, great Bob “Bullet” Hayes, whom President Fred Gainous and the Marching 100 honored at halftime.
It was only fitting that those Rattlers used their feet to do it, which Hayes used to get slapped with the label of “World Fastest Man,” after winning two Olympic gold medals in 1964 and before winning a Super Bowl in 1972 with the Dallas Cowboys.
The dynamic, destructive running duo of Tallahassee freshman Rashard Pompey and Arizona sophomore Devvin Richardson stole the show and led their team to a 36-28 victory with 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns between them.
“I know the running backs can play and everybody else knows now,” said senior quarterback Casey Printers, who made his triumph return from a high left ankle sprain and thrived in the balanced attack. “We know that we can establish the running game that our offense is going to explode.”
It was the Rattlers’ plan to run the football against North Carolina A&T, who gave up 307 yards on the ground in the 30-13 loss the week before to Morgan State.
“That was part of our logistics and our planning and our management of the game – to run the ball,” said head coach Billy Joe.
On each of the Rattlers’ first three drives on first and 10, Pompey, the starting running back, was given the ball. He rushed for a total of 34 yards on those three plays, which set a powerful running standard that lasted the rest of the game.
Pompey would go on to rush for 119 yards on 20 carries in three quarters, averaging an outstanding 5.9 yards per rush.
“I have to give credit to my offensive line because they were opening up holes. Any running back can run through the holes they were making,” said Pompey, who fell on and jammed his already injured left shoulder on an unsuccessful third down quarterback option play late in the third quarter.
Pompey was then replaced by Richardson, who said after the game, “When your number is called you have to be ready to perform.”
And Richardson was indeed ready to perform as he ran profusely in the final quarter for 58 yards on 12 carries.
On several plays during that deciding quarter it took several Aggies defenders to bring down Richardson, who kept his legs churning, with no quit in his system.
“I have the philosophy that one man can’t tackle me, so if (there is) one man in front of me, he is not going to stop me,” Richardson said. “He is going to need some help.”
Richardson also finished off two fourth-quarter drives with two important rushing touchdowns, something that the Rattlers could not do in the two previous home losses to South Carolina State and Howard. Pompey also rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter.
The last time either member of the duo rushed for a touchdown was almost a month ago, when Richardson ran one in on Sept. 21 against Delaware State.
Collectively they now have six rushing touchdowns (four Richardson, two Pompey) on the season, compared to six by back-up quarterback Reggie Hayes and three by Printers.
The Rattlers may have set a standard for the rest of the season on the ground with this win as Bob Hayes watched from above.
“I thought that it was fitting that we win today in honor and tribute to Bob “Bullet” Hayes,” Joe said. “He would have been proud of us today because we won.”