Florida A&M freshman receiver Cardan Alexander grew up before the eyes of 22,159 in Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 14-9 with six seconds remaining, FAMU (3-2) quarterback Ben Dougherty threw a 13-yard fade pattern to Alexander in the back of the end zone, who tipped it to himself and made a falling catch with a defender in his face, giving the Rattlers a 15-14 win.
“Earlier [in the fourth quarter] we threw a fade to Cardan, but he really didn’t attack the ball,” FAMU coach Billy Joe said. “So we reamed him out after that play. When we came back to him, I felt confident that he would make the play this time.”
The final drive started from FAMU’s 26-yard line with 1:01 remaining in the game. Dougherty completed three passes to receiver Rod Miller for 16, 18 and 27 yards to get down the field to the 13-yard line. After two incomplete passes, Dougherty finally connected with Alexander for the game winner.
“He’s just a tough guy,” Alexander said of Dougherty. “We all on the team have confidence in Ben, and we know if we give him the ball, he’s going to make plays for us.”
If nothing else, Delaware State (0-4 overall, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) came out fighting.
The Hornets went for a fourth-and-10, and also attempted a fake punt and field goal in the first quarter. They connected on the fourth down and the fake punt, but couldn’t get any points out of the drive.
The winless Hornets put a scare into FAMU, who had to come back from eight points down in the fourth quarter.
“What a way to win a game,” Dougherty said. “Offensively and defensively, we didn’t give up. We fought to the end. I’m just extremely happy with these guys.”
Dougherty missed his second consecutive start, but made up for it in the second half. He came in on the third quarter’s opening drive, and took the offense 70 yards on seven plays in a minute and a half.
He went 5-for-5 on the drive, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rod Miller. Dougherty finished the game 17-for-28, with 196 yards, two scores, and two interceptions.
“Running the speed drill at the end of the game is nothing for us, because that’s our normal offense,” Dougherty said. “They went into a prevent [defense] and a lot of things just opened up for us.”
Before Dougherty entered the game, the Rattlers’ offense sputtered once again under freshman Charles McCullum. FAMU was scoreless at halftime and only mustered 89 yards of offense against a Hornets team that came into Tallahassee giving up 32 points per game.
The Hornets’ lone offensive touchdown came at the end of the third quarter on a 44-yard run by Jeremy Biandundi. Even with the big run, DSU managed just 221 yards of total offense.
“It was a close game that we had to pull out,” running back Rashard Pompey said. “But I knew we were going to pull it out.”
Next up for the Rattlers is the Oct. 4 Circle City Classic in Indianapolis against Jackson State.
Kevin Fair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org