The Rattlers road to the Division I-AA playoffs will take it to Mobile, Ala. where it will meet up with Troy State, the Rattler’s second Division I-A opponent this season.
The Rattlers are on a three-game winning streak since losing to Howard on Oct. 12.
The team knows another loss may end its playoff chances.
Head coach Billy Joe said the team has to maintain the intensity from last Saturday when the offense put up over 450 yards and the defense shut Hampton out for three and a half quarters.
“Because Homecoming was such an emotional win for us, there’s a chance that we may have come out flat (against Troy State),” Joe said. “But we know the importance of this game. We can’t afford to lose it.”
Rattlers’ offensive lineman Fletcher Williams, who has become the spokesman for the unit, said the team rises to the challenge of big games.
“We have the tendency to play to the level of our competition,” Williams said. “When we play in big games, everyone usually steps up. I don’t see any difference in this Saturday.”
The Rattler offense has come alive during its current winning streak. Quarterback Casey Printers has thrown for 859 yards and seven touchdowns in the past three games and has been helped out by an improved running game and a receiving corp that is finally getting in sync with its quarterback.
The offense may have picked the right time to get on track. It has not faced a defense as good as Troy State, with the exception of Miami at the beginning of the season. The Trojans are ranked No. 5 in Division I-A in total defense. The star of the unit is senior linebacker Naazir Yamini, who leads the team with 95 tackles.
“Their defense runs to the ball really well,” Printers said. “They’ve played a lot of great teams and played them well. We need to play at the top of our game.”
However, the Trojan offense has struggled the entire season. TSU has thrown only six touchdowns this year. Quarterback Hansell Bearden has accounted for all six scores, but has also thrown 15 interceptions. Receiver Jason Samples leads the team with 41 catches for 516 yards and three touchdowns. But the next most productive receiver, Heyward Skipper, has only 19 catches for 328 yards.
Troy State has done most of its offensive damage with its running game, which averages 189 yards per game.
Senior LeBarron Black, who has 693 yards and seven touchdowns, leads the attack.
Sophomore DeWitt Betterson assists in carrying the load for the Trojans. Betterson has 527 yards and four scores on the year.
Although FAMU’s defense did an excellent job shutting down one of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s best rushing teams, Joe said the Trojans provide a different challenge.
“There’s no question that Troy State does a great job running the ball,” Joe said. “Our defense needs to be tough and aggressive to have a chance to win this game.”