The last time the Florida A&M Rattlers started out 0-3, Tennessee State handed them their fourth loss of the season.
That was 20 years ago.
After being overmatched against three Division I-A foes, the Rattlers will try not to duplicate that 1984 season when they face the Tigers Saturday in their first match-up against Division I-AA competition of the season.
FAMU won’t be facing an ordinary Division I-AA team in the Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee State (3-0) is undefeated after dismantling Alabama A&M and Tennessee-Martin, and barely edging out Jackson State.
Plus, historically the Rattlers have a worse record against the Tigers (18-25), than against any other Division I-AA opponent that they’ve faced more than 10 times.
“We have a formidable foe and it most definitely will not be a walk in the park for us,” said FAMU’s Head Football Coach Billy Joe, who with a win would move into second place all-time in career coaching wins at FAMU.
“(Nonetheless), we’re most definitely looking forward to coming down to the friendly confines of Division I-AA.”
After FAMU’s offense had sporadic success against three Division I-A defenses, FAMU quarterback Ben Dougherty is eager to show what the offense can really do in this the conclusion of the Rattlers four-game road trip.
“I still don’t feel like any of the teams we’ve played have stopped us; we’ve stopped ourselves,” said Dougherty, who’s passed for 502 yards this season.
“I don’t think anybody has seen the true colors of the offense and we look forward to going out there and putting on a show.”
The Rattlers’ irregular success on offense has been due in large part to mental mistakes and a lack of execution, while on the defensive side, the Rattlers simply haven’t been able to stop the run.
FAMU has given up an average of about 261 yards per game on the ground.
It’s not going to get any easier Saturday for the Rattlers, as they will have to stop arguably the best running back they’ve seen thus far.
Orlando’s Jones High School graduate Charles Anthony will be looking to add to his season rushing total of 534 yards and the 375 rushing yards the senior compiled against the Rattlers over the last three years.
“I know that they have one of the best running backs in Division I-AA, but hopefully I won’t have to tackle him that much,” said senior cornerback Wally Kwaku, who’s making his return to the line-up after serving a three-game suspension.
“We have to plug our holes, fill it up and make them pass the ball.”
Joe said if the Rattlers stop Anthony, then they will have a good chance of winning.
“Anthony is an unbelievable running back and he’s tough to bring down,” said Joe about Tennessee State’s all-time rushing leader.
“They ride his number and he’s been doing a great job for them for the past three years.”
All in all, even though the Rattlers should have an advantage since they’ve taken on top-notch competition, Joe said he’d take a win any way that he can get it.
“We would just like to come out of ‘Hotlanta’ with a victory,” Joe said.
“If it means by one point, a fluke, we don’t care.”