This wasn’t in the game plan.
FAMU wasn’t supposed to let Nicholls State run all over them for 313 yards without throwing a single pass all night. FAMU wasn’t supposed to throw two interceptions. And you can rest assured the Rattlers weren’t supposed to rack up 14 penalties.
But on Saturday night, this was the story for the Rattlers and in turn, Nicholls State defeated FAMU 42-25 in front of 8,196 fans in Bragg Memorial Stadium.
“We just weren’t hitting on all cylinders today,” said senior quarterback Ben Dougherty, who went 16 of 29 for 175 yards with one interception. “It is really frustrating because we really felt that this was a winnable game. We didn’t play Rattler football the way that we are capable of playing.”
The Nicholls State Colonels struck first. After forcing the Rattlers to punt on their first possession of the game, Nicholls State (3-2) drove the football 66 yards on 11 plays capping the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run by freshman fullback Broderick Cole at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter. The extra point was good, giving the Colonels a 7-0 lead.
All the Rattlers did in the first quarter was manage to get themselves four penalties for 25 yards. The Rattlers had a total of 14 penalties for 167 yards on the night.
In the second quarter the Colonels reached pay dirt again.
This time, it took Nicholls State five plays to march 64 yards before junior quarterback Yale Vannoy, sprinted 13 yards to put the Colonels up 14-0.
The Rattlers (2-4) responded with a six-play, 82-yard touchdown drive of their own. Dougherty got the drive started with a 21-yard scamper from the Rattlers’ own 18 yard line.
Then, five plays later, Dougherty connected with senior wide receiver Rod Miller, back after serving a five-game NCAA mandated suspension, for 25 yards placing the football on the Colonels’ 1-yard line.
From there, junior tailback Rashard Pompey scored from 1 yard out, the point after was good closing the Colonels’ lead to 14-7 with 8:51 to play before halftime.
But the Colonels came right back with an eight-play drive of their own, charging 74 yards that ended with Vannoy dashing 12 yards around the right end for the score, pushing the Nicholls State lead back up to 21-7.
The Rattlers managed to put together a 9-play, 83-yard drive with Pompey scoring his second of three touchdowns on the night, from 2 yards out with 1:03 left in the first half.
The extra point was blocked and FAMU went into halftime trailing the Colonels, 21-13.
“When you play a team that is very disciplined like Nicholls State you need to be clicking,” Dougherty said. “We had a lot of opportunity to score and for one reason or another we couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.”
In the second half, everything began to unravel for the Rattlers.
In a span of 2:13 midway through the third quarter the Colonels scored three unanswered touchdowns.
The first score came when Colonels senior running back David Plaisance raced 52 yards, untouched, for a touchdown.
Then five plays later, with the Rattlers backed up at their own 25-yard line, the Colonels blocked a Damon Miller punt and Colonels senior defensive back David Willis picked it up and ran in for an 8-yard touchdown.
Four plays later, with the Rattlers again deep in their own territory, Dougherty threw an interception, which was returned to the Rattlers’ seven yard line.
On the next play, the Colonels scored again. Cole scored his second rushing touchdown of the night from 7 yards out, widening the Colonels’ lead to 42-13 and seemingly putting the game out of reach for the Rattlers.
Nicholls State finished the game with 313 yards on 60 carries to the dismay of the Rattler defense.
“A lot of times we were out of place,” said senior defensive end Jeff Green who ended the game with five solo tackles and 12 tackles in all. “Any time you’re playing a Wing-T option offense everyone has to be disciplined. We were pretty solid at first, but anytime you get out of place they can make a big play on you and that is what happened tonight.”
The Rattlers did score twice more, when red-shirt freshman Albert Chester, who was in the game as relief for Dougherty, hit sophomore wide receiver Gerald Morgan for a 44-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter.
The final score of the night came on a 19-yard touchdown run by Pompey, who registered his first 100-yard rushing game of the season with 110 yards on 19 carries, closing the Colonels’ lead to 42-25, but the Rattlers couldn’t get any closer.
Despite the loss, FAMU’s offense was productive, racking 511 yards of total offense with 290 yards coming through the air.
But a third Rattler win would have been much sweeter.
“I just feel that we could have executed better,” said senior wide receiver Rod Miller, who had eight receptions for 132 yards. “For us to drive down field and not put it in the end zone is tough. But this is something that we can work on and come close to perfecting.”
The Rattlers know that after a loss of this magnitude some retooling is definitely needed.
“We are going to go back to the drawing boards and bring some resolution to the concerns that we have,” said Head Coach Billy Joe. “There were enough mistakes to go around for everyone. I thought that everyone had some highlights and I thought that all of the players had some lowlights.”
Saturday the Rattler’s will hit the road to take on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Contact Ryan Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.