It wouldn’t be a Florida A&M University (3-2 overall, 1-1 MEAC) football game without drama late in the fourth quarter.
In the Rattlers’ 25-22 victory over the Tennessee State University Tigers (1-4 overall, 1-0 OVC) in the 18th annual Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic, FAMU had enough late game drama to spill over into overtime.
In what has been a familiar scene for Rattler football games, the team found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard at halftime as the Tigers led 7-3.
“This is the third week we have had to do this – coming from behind after being down at halftime,” head coach Rubin Carter said. “But this is a very young team, and there is a lot of enthusiasm. But there is also a lot of inexperience there.”What the team lacks in experience, they make up for in heart, said redshirt sophomore running back Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native led the FAMU offense with 101 rushing yards on 24 carries.
But unlike in previous games against Winston Salem State and Howard, where FAMU was down at the half, the team didn’t wait until late in the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
“We wanted to come out on fire,” said redshirt junior quarterback Albert Chester II, who finished the game with 218 passing yards. “But it didn’t quite happen that way. But we started to pick it up.”
The Rattlers jumped out to a quick start in the second half. Early in the third quarter, Chester hit senior wide receiver Gerard Morgan for an 82-yard touchdown pass, giving the Rattlers a 10-7 lead.
The Rattlers would continue to dominate, taking a 16-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
FAMU had both momentum and a healthy lead in its hands late in the game. But the Rattlers wouldn’t have their comfort zone for long.
TSU put together a touchdown drive midway through the fourth that led to a four-yard rushing touchdown by Tiger running back Javarris Williams. This was one of the many runs that saw Williams gallop his way to a career night of 229 yards. On the drive, Williams gained 41 of TSU’s 80 yards.
“It was a little sporadic there on defense. They were allowed some big plays that allowed them to sustain some drives,” Carter said.
During the week, the team emphasized stopping the run. But the Rattler defense gave up 227 yards on the ground. Redshirt junior defensive back Jason Beach led all defenders with 13 tackles (11 solo).
With under a minute to go, another Taylor field goal put the Rattlers up 22-14. It looked like the Rattlers would leave the Georgia Dome winners of the Atlanta Classic for the fifth consecutive year.
But the Tigers scored on a 76-yard touchdown drive and cut their deficit to two points. A two-point conversion tied the game at 22 at the end of regulation.
The game went into overtime for the first time in Atlanta Classic history.
In overtime, the FAMU defense forced Williams to fumble on the 1-yard line.
After the fumble recovery, the team failed to reach the end zone. This set the stage for another Taylor field goal attempt. Taylor booted a 34-yard field goal to give the Rattlers their third straight victory.
“Wesley is an All-American. That means he is one of the best in the nation and the world in terms of kicking a football,” Chester said. “It’s kind of our mojo now. We always have to come from behind. We keep winning but it would be nice not to have a stroke every game,” he said of FAMU’s flair for the dramatic. Carter said the team has the right attitude despite their mistakes.
“We are starting to create an identity for our team,” Carter said. “We will never give up or concede. We will play until the very last second.”