Florida A&M (3-5) played its best game of the season Saturday in its 50-14 homecoming romp over Savannah State (1-5).
The Rattlers’ win snapped a two-game losing streak, losses in which the Rattlers were defeated by a combined total of 79 points.
After getting thumped 62-0 last weekend at Virginia Tech, the win came at the perfect time.
FAMU Head Coach Billy Joe said the Rattlers needed to win to boost the team’s moral going into the final home game of the season Saturday against Division I-A provisional Florida Atlantic.
“A win is just like time, it cures all ills,” Joe said. “I don’t care if it’s against Jake Gaither Pop Warner football team, we needed to beat somebody.”
The Rattlers ended the game with 626 yards of total offense. According to Joe, the defense bent, but didn’t break.
The Rattlers gave up 493 yards of total offense allowing only two touchdowns when the game was out of reach.
But it didn’t always look like the Rattlers would pull out their 10th consecutive homecoming victory, especially in the beginning.
In the first quarter, the Rattlers made the same mistakes, mishaps and miscues that they have been making all season on offense, defense and special teams.
The Rattlers couldn’t get things going offensively, as SSU dominated the ball for more 12 minutes during the first quarter.
The Rattlers allowed 50 yards on the ground and the special teams botched an extra point and a field goal.
The Rattlers did manage to score when senior quarterback Ben Dougherty scored an 8-yard touchdown run breaking three tackles.
He capped off a drive highlighted by a 57-yard scamper by junior running back Rashard Pompey to make the score 6-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Rattlers started striking like never before this season.
The Rattler offense exploded for five consecutive touchdowns scoring 30 unanswered points, putting the game out of reach.
Dougherty found his rhythm with his receiving core finishing the second half going 14-19 for 260 yards and no interceptions, making the most of the Tigers commitment to playing man-to-man coverage on defense.
“They were running man most of the time,” said senior wide receiver Rod Miller. “I guess they felt they had good enough athletes. But I think in the long run that hurt them.”
Dougherty got it popping on the very first drive of the quarter.
He found Miller over the middle, which slipped through the arms of an SSU defender and streaked down the sideline for a 35-yard gain.
That play set up a 4-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Gerard Morgan pushing the score to 12-0 with 9:38 to go in the second quarter.
After SSU running back Myshun McAlpine fumbled, turning the ball over to the Rattlers on the SSU 29-yard line with 9:22 to go in the second half, the aerial assault continued.
Clemson University transfer Ronnie Thomas hauled in a spectacular 29-yard touchdown pass over his opposite shoulder to put the orange and green ahead 18-0.
Everyone got in on the action. Dougherty went back to sophomore wide receiver Roosevelt Kiser after the Rattlers’ leading receiver dropped a key pass halting the first drive, connecting with Kiser for a 25-yard touchdown reception at the 5:15 mark.
“It does a lot to you when you drop a pass, because in my head I’m thinking maybe the quarterback might not come back to me,” said Kiser who finished the game with four catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. “I just have to put it behind to let it go, I can’t go back and catch it again.”
Dougherty would finish the Tigers off running for a touchdown with 3:29 to go in the second and hitting Kiser for his second touchdown, a 41-yarder that gave the Rattlers the lead 36-0 at halftime.
The Rattlers put their defensive reserves in at the beginning of the third quarter and they just poured it on even more.
“It’s good to see the people behind you come in and play because you know they’re great athletes too,” said Pompey, who became FAMU’s 10th all time leading rusher Saturday. “So, it’s good watching them play and not having that pressure on us to have to come in and win the game at the last minute.”
Junior quarterback Josh Driscoll entered the game at the beginning of the third quarter.
Driscoll completed seven of his first nine passes on the opening drive of the second half, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to increase FAMU’s lead to 43-0.
Savannah State quarterback Clyde Tullis threw two touchdowns, both of which proved to be a day late and a dollar short.
With 10:40 to go in the third quarter, Tullis connected with wide receiver Khalil Hasan for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Then with 4:31 seconds to go in the fourth quarter Tullis hit Brian Thompson for a ten yard pass for the game’s final score making it 50-14.
Coach Joe is hoping that the lopsided win will give the team the confidence and energy it needs to defeat Florida Atlantic Saturday at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
“This (win) will give us a tremendous psychological lift, emotional lift and hopefully, catapult us into a great remaining three games,” Joe said.
Contact Nick Birdsong at firstname.lastname@example.org.