NEW ORLEANS, La.-Florida A&M could’ve certainly used the services of suspended senior standout defensive tackle John Edwards to plug up some of Tulane’s glaring holes Saturday.
Those holes allowed the Green Wave to amass 233 yards on the ground and defeat the Rattlers 39-19 at the Louisiana Superdome in the Emerald Coast Classic.
Running back Jovon Jackson did most of Tulane’s damage on the ground.
He rushed for 134 yards on just 19 carries, including a demoralizing 17-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first half, which put the Green Wave up two scores (25-13) for the first time.
“Even though we put a lot of bodies on and by the line of scrimmage, our Achilles heal is the fact that we missed a lot of tackles,” said FAMU head coach Billy Joe, as Jackson also had an eight-yard run and a four-yard run in the second and third quarters, respectively. “We are making contact often times in the backfield and we let the running back slip away. We need to improve on our tackling. There is no question about that.”
FAMU kept it close early. Quarterback Ben Dougherty answered two Green Wave scores in the first half with touchdown passes to receiver Ronnie Thomas for six yards late in the first quarter and a 32-yard strike to receiver Roosevelt Kiser.
The latter score tied the game at 13 with 11:23 in the second quarter. But on the Rattlers next possession, Dougherty suffered a knee injury on a scramble, which forced him to sit out the rest of the half and FAMU’s first possession of the second half.
As Dougherty limped off the field, so did the Rattlers’ offensive momentum, as the Green Wave would then reel off 20 unanswered points.
“It was frustrating to watch them run off a bunch of points when it’s 13-13,” said Dougherty, who finished with 177 yards passing and two touchdowns. “They started to do a few different things defensively and tried to put a lot more pressure on the quarterback.”
Joe added: “For a while there we went unto a lull offensively and had a lot of three and outs.
That really put pressure on our defense and made it difficult for them to get the stops that they wanted to get. But the games are going in the right direction. Offensively we are scoring more points and defensively we are holding them to less points, so we’re going to beat somebody really soon.”
Josh Driscoll replaced Dougherty and passed for 137 yards with a late four-yard touchdown run.
FAMU struggled to score until late in the fourth quarter mostly because of 11 drive-destroying sacks.
“We feel at this particular time that no one has really shut our offense down,” Joe said. “We have a real strong affinity for self-inflicted wounds and at this time we are bleeding rather profusely, but we are still alive.”
Even though Rattler running backs Rashard Pompey and Paul Sharpe showed new life early, they would ultimately total only 75 yards rushing.
Along with Dougherty’s 61 yards on the ground, FAMU ended up with a solid 145 yards rushing.
“We know that we just can’t throw that ball exclusively, so the running game is very important,” Joe said. “I thought we took some long strides in recapturing our running game from last year.”
Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard overcame a two-interception game last week in a loss to Mississippi State and two first quarter fumbles, to pass for 174 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of action. On a 38-yard play action pass, Ricard hit receiver Bubba Terranova for the game’s first score. Early in the second quarter, Ricard hit tight end Gabe Ratcliff for a 5-yard touchdown.
“I felt comfortable (because) the running game was there and that makes my job easy,” said Ricard, who did throw one pick in the third quarter. “Last week I was going 100 miles an hour. I was so excited I almost hyperventilated, but this week I was a lot calmer.”
The Rattlers will play their third straight Division I-A opponent Saturday when they travel to Philadelphia to face Temple Saturday.
Contact ibram rogers at ibram rogers @aol.com.