Despite a tribute to former Florida A&M University tennis star Althea Gibson and a halftime speech by new President James Ammons to fire up the crowd, the FAMU football team could not find the inspiration to defeat the Delaware State Hornets (2-0) (1-0) Saturday night at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Delaware State continued their winning streak over the FAMU rolling 20-7 taking advantage of miscues on defense and special teams which proved to be the difference in the first MEAC conference game of the season.
FAMU was outplayed in all aspects of the game despite executing a short passing game with the absence of senior wide out Willie Hayward who sat at with a leg injury. Hayward a deep-threat receiver seemed to be missed as the Rattlers failed to connect on any deep passes to open up the defense.
The running game never got going as freshmen player of the week Phillip Sylvester gained only 39 yards on 11 carries and committed a key turnover as he fumbled away an opportunity for the Rattlers to take the lead as they were driving down the field. “We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Albert Chester II said. “When it is third and 15 everyone knows that a pass is coming, continued Chester.
On the offensive side, FAMU did show signs of life but just could not display any consistency. Chester was able to spread the ball around as he connected with six different receivers led by Derek Williams. The Port St. Lucie native caught five passes for 51 yards as he was able to find holes in the Hornet defense but penalties and indecisiveness by Chester stalled many Rattler drives.
The defense kept FAMU in the game as the Rattlers were able to keep the Delaware State running game in check as Hornet running back Chris Strother only gained 35 yards on 11 carries but it was Strother’s receptions over the middle of the defense that allowed Delaware State to march right down the field in the second and third quarters.
Delaware State started the scoring on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter to go up 7-0. FAMU capitalized on a Hornet turnover by driving 40 yards in four plays ending in a five yard touchdown reception by tight-end Taj Jenkins to tie the game at seven. With a minute remaining in the half Delaware State marched right down the field and took the lead 10-7 on a 34-yard field goal. The drive right before the half seemed to suck the life out of the Rattlers who came out flat in the third quarter.
“In the locker room we talked about dominating the second half,” Vernon Wilder said. “I don’t know why we came out flat.”
Hornet quarterback, Vashon Winton, threw his second touchdown pass of the game a 19-yard strike to William Griggs as the Hornets began to pull away from a fatigued Rattler squad.
In the secondary FAMU failed to wrap-up as Delaware State broke a number of tackles to prolong drives which kept a tiring Rattler defense on the field.
“We have to tackle better, we practice tackling drills two sometimes three times a week,” Head Coach Rubin Carter said.
The Rattlers will host Howard Saturday at 6p.m. in Bragg Memorial Stadium.