Florida A&M head coach Billy Joe said earlier in the week that his defense had improved tremendously.
“We know that we have some issues with certain components of our defense,” said Joe about his defense, which gave up 129 points in the Rattlers first three games. “But the fact that those weaknesses have been disclosed, we have an opportunity now to correct them.”
And correct them they did.
While the offense struggled, going scoreless in the first quarter, and the special teams made costly mistakes, the Rattlers stifling defense was the reliable force that allowed them to edge out Tennessee State University 21-15 in the Bank of America Atlanta Classic Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
In addition to an early fourth quarter safety, the Tigers only two scores came off of late second-quarter mistakes by the Rattlers offense and special teams.
TSU (3-1) capitalized off of an interception thrown by FAMU (1-3) senior quarterback Ben Dougherty. Wide receiver Fred Burnette caught a 10 yard touchdown reception from TSU quarterback Bryson Rosser with about a minute to go in the first half. FAMU fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, setting the stage for Tigers senior running back Charles Anthony’s dramatic 1-yard touchdown run as time expired.
The Tigers’ highly touted Anthony, who attended Orlando’s Jones High, continued his success against the Rattlers, rushing for 155 yards on 31 carries, upping his total to 689 yards for the season .
But when the Rattlers needed a stop on third down (TSU 2 of 14) or a big play, FAMU’s defense came through.
“The defense is designed to win games, and the offense is designed to sell tickets,” said junior safety Sammy Doughty, who had one of the Rattlers’ three interceptions to go with his four tackles. “We always knew we had a good defense.”
FAMU’s two stars on offense were Dougherty, who passed for 340 yards, completing 30 of his 47 passing attempts and sophomore receiver Roosevelt Kiser, who caught 13 passes for 181 yards.
With FAMU down 15-6 in the middle of the fourth quarter, the tandem hooked up for a 22-yard and a 37-yard touchdown on successive possessions.
After the Rattlers’ converted on a two-point conversion with 2:12 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers attempt to retake the lead with about a minute left was halted by an interception in the red zone on the Rattlers nine yard line by sophomore safety Cardan Alexander.
Next weekend, the Rattlers will host winless Virginia Union Saturday at Bragg Memorial Stadium in their first home game of the season.
Contact Ibram Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.