The game did not start on time, but that may have been the only thing that could have stopped Rashard Pompey Saturday afternoon.
The senior running back had a career day in the Rattlers 31-17 victory over Norfolk State, to give FAMU its 11th consecutive homecoming victory.
After gaining only 79 yards in his previous three outings, the Tallahassee native erupted for 181 yards on 38 carries, both career highs.
“We’ve been wanting Rashard to have a game like this for two weeks,” said Rattler head coach Rubin Carter.
Leveling their conference record at 2-2, Pompey said Saturday’s game was a way for the team to get “back on the right track (to) playing Rattler football.”
“It was big, homecoming is always a big game, everyone wants to come in and see a big game. For homecoming everyone is fired up, ready to play,” Pompey said.
Saturday’s game also brought the return of quarterback Josh Driscoll, but only for a little while. After injuring his groin at FAMU’s last home game, Sept. 17, the senior left midway through the third quarter after re-injuring it.
Before Driscoll left, he got the Rattler offense going. His touchdown tosses to Aubrey Parrish and Roosevelt Kiser in the second quarter helped establish Pompey later on. Along with the two touchdowns, Driscoll was 12-22 passes for 161 yards and no turnovers.
“Josh came in and gave us the spark we needed,” said Kiser, who was Driscoll’s primary target with 11 receptions for 142 yards. “Josh is a soldier. I know he was going to play through it, or at least try. We get reps with all the quarterbacks because quarterbacks have been going down left and right.”
After a first quarter in which FAMU dropped the ball–figuratively and literally–Driscoll got back on track, missing only three of his 11 pass attempts in the second quarter.
But for the miscues, Kiser said the Rattlers “could have easily” scored more than their 17 first half points.
Parrish opened the scoring three minutes into the frame with a pretty leap over a defender in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. An extra point by dependable kicker Wesley Taylor gave FAMU a 7-0 lead.
The 44-yard scoring drive was the result of tough play by Pompey, who accounted for 29 yards on the drive, via the run, pass and penalty.
In what became a reoccurring theme throughout the game, Norfolk provided a counterattack for almost everything Rubin Carter and the Rattlers had in store.
Quarterback Brandon Brooks responded to the Rattler score, finishing an 80-yard drive on the Spartans next possession with an eight-yard scramble, set up by his 48-yard hook up with Emery Sammons. Brooks dove in for the third-down score after eluding a few Rattler defenders.
After Kiser caught a five-yard touchdown with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, both teams added field goals to give FAMU a 17-10 halftime lead.
With freshman quarterback Chris Owens out with a concussion, the team relied on sophomore Albert Chester when Driscoll was unable to continue.
To little surprise, FAMU gave the Spartans a steady dose of Pompey. Of Chester’s first 10 plays, the first nine were running plays. The 10th play resulted in a touchdown, but for Norfolk State.
Daniel Hammett returned an interception 92 yards to tie the game at 17. It was Chester’s third interception of the season.
“Mistakes are going to happen. Once I set into a rhythm I think I’ll be alright,” Chester said.
And he was all right after the interception, as he found Willie Hayward for a touchdown in the Rattlers next possession.
Calling his play Saturday a microcosm of his life, Chester said he was glad he pulled himself out of a hole he’s been in for most of the season.
“It was a great confidence builder for him,” Carter said. “The entire team was starting to rally behind him. I thought (Chester) did an excellent job of managing the clock.”
Chester acknowledged his teammates who assured him of their support. They told him to just throw the ball up and they will get it.
Contact Will Brown at email@example.com