Football Midseason Report Card

Run OffenseLet’s not forget that before the season, the rushing attack was supposed to be promising. Miami transfer running back Alfonso Mounts was going to team up with returners Rashard Pompey and Devvin Richardson to make one heck of a ground game. Unfortunately, the same NCAA ruling that took away Clemson transfer quarterback Willie Simmons, took away Mounts. On top of that, Richardson hurt his ankle in the last scrimmage of the summer. What was once going to be a ground game with three quality backs, FAMU has played with only one for most of the first half of the season. Pompey has tried to carry the ground attack. The offense averages 120.8 rush yards per game.Grade: C

Pass OffenseSimply put, when starting quarterback Ben Dougherty is in, the Rattlers passing attack is good. Very good. When he’s not in, they’re bad. That’s understandable. After all, who thought the Atlanta Falcons were going to be the same team when Michael Vick went down. Dougherty is truly a “Gulf Coast Offense” quarterback. He has excellent decision-making skills. He’s accurate, he has a big arm, and he moves well in the pocket. With only one starting receiver returning from last year, the pass offense was actually not supposed to be a strength early on in the season. However, both freshman Cardan Alexander, who has stepped up since being named a starter after the first game, and junior Rod Miller are giving Dougherty some sure-handed targets to receive the ball. When Dougherty’s in, this unit gets an “A.”Grade: B

Run DefenseBefore the season, defensive tackle John Edwards said no running back was going to gain over 100 yards on FAMU’s defense “and that includes Florida.” The statement held true for three games, until Tennessee State’s Charles Anthony racked up 159 yards. But he’s the only one to do it so far this season. As a team, however, the unit is giving up 179 yards per game. That number is a little inflated though because Florida rushed for 309 yards against FAMU. The interior of the front four, Edwards and defensive tackle Leon Scott, is where the pressure for the run defense starts, but the linebackers, Shedrick Copeland, Julian Worley and others, are doing a good job at times clogging up running gaps.Grade: B

Pass DefenseWith the experience and talent coming back in the secondary, many Division I-AA experts said this unit could be the best in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Thus far, the secondary led by All-American safety Levy Brown has played well. Despite missing the first game of the season, Brown leads the teams in interceptions. Most of the teams in I-AA, especially in the MEAC, are run-oriented teams, so the secondary will rarely get tested for a full game. Saturday against Jackson State was their second major test against a prolific passing team (of course Florida was the first), and the secondary stepped up, holding the offense to 218 passing yards.Grade B+

Special TeamsIn the season opener against Alabama State, the special teams gave up two touchdowns and almost a third. Coming off last year’s season when the special teams group made mistakes that haunted FAMU all season, the opening game was not a good sign of things to come. Coach Billy Joe added more starters to the unit, and all of the sudden, kick and punt coverage got much better. Copeland even has a couple of blocked field goals to his credit. Punter Damon Miller is having an All-American caliber season, averaging close to 45 yards per punt. On the other hand, kick and punt returning is struggling. Kicker Juan Vasquez is six for 11 on field goals. Botched extra point and field goal attempts still hurt the Rattlers.Grade: C+

CoachingJoe takes a lot of heat for coaching from the press box, instead of being down on the sideline. The truth is, Joe wears three hats. He’s the head coach, the offensive coordinator, and the quarterbacks coach. Despite some critics’ dissatisfaction of the fact the “Gulf Coast Offense” isn’t putting up 600 points a year, the system still works. Injuries have really hurt this team more than their 4-2 record this year or their 7-5 record last year shows. How injured has FAMU been? The Rattlers have not had the same starting quarterback for four straight games since the 2001 season. Enough said. Joe is immensely underrated as a coach, and no other coach could’ve gotten more out of this team than Joe has.Grade: A

OverallThere have been three games where FAMU has had a healthy Dougherty and, for the most part, a healthy team (Alabama State, Morgan State and Jackson State). The Rattlers are 2-1 in those games. Even the games when Dougherty didn’t start, or didn’t even play at all, FAMU is 2-1. Yes, FAMU played 0-3 Delaware State close. Yes, the offense only put up 171 total yards against TSU. But FAMU won both games. Remember, this is the same team that lost 18 players before the season because of an NCAA ruling. It affected them in the opener, but the Rattlers bounced back and have won four of their last five games. It might not have been pretty, but you can’t argue with 4-2.Grade: B+