Just as expected the Atlanta Football Classic came down to the wire once again as the Rattlers (2-2) (1-1) barely squeaked by the Tennessee State Tigers, 18-17, Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
Junior kicker Eric Benson of Tennessee State missed a 27-yard field goal wide left that would have won the game for the Tigers as time expired.
With 55 seconds remaining in the game and down by one, the Tigers started the drive at their own five yard line after a Wesley Taylor punt.
Tennessee State quarterback Antonio Heffner was able to work his magic with his arm and feet as he led the Tiger offense 87 yards down the field on seven plays down to the Rattler five-yard line after a 55-yard pass from Heffner to wide receiver Chris Johnson.
The Tiger field goal unit marched on the field and lined up for the potential game winner.
After a false start penalty that moved the ball from the five to the 10-yard line FAMU called a timeout to ice Benson.
While Tennessee State lined up for the second time, red shirt junior linebacker Vernon Wilder waved his arms hoping to distract the kicker, little did the Miami native know that it would work.
“I was talking to him to put pressure on him and he pulled it left,” Wilder said.
FAMU dodged a bullet with the missed field goal in a game that could have easily been another loss and extended their winning streak over the Tigers to six games.
“If he kicks it ten more times he would make all of them,” Tennessee State Head coach James Webster said.
In the first half the Rattlers played the worst half of football by far this season as the offense failed to put the ball in the end zone despite sustaining long drives that resulted in a field goal and interception.
Defensively, FAMU gave up a touchdown two and a half minutes into the game as Heffner found receiver Troy Smith for a 55-yard touchdown.
Running back Javarrus Williams appeared to be on his way to another big game rushing against the Rattlers as he finished the first half with 74 yards rushing as he bulldozed his way through the core of the Rattler defense.
Tennessee State controlled the first half scoring 14 points and holding the Rattlers to five points on a field goal and a safety on a botched snap.
The third quarter was another story as the Rattlers came out swinging as defenders, started putting more pressure on the Tigers, as the defensive line started to collapse the pocket giving Williams little running room.
Tallahassee native Carlos Rolle led all tacklers with nine. Nose tackle Cameron Houston finished with 8 tackles one for a loss and a forced fumble which began the turn of the tides for FAMU.
It was the 83-yard punt return for a touchdown with just over six minutes to go in the third quarter by freshman Qier Hall that changed the momentum of the game.
A struggling Albert Chester II was replaced by senior Leon Camel who was able to add to the scoring as he found the end zone on a quarterback keeper from nine yards out.
The fifteen point turn around would stand until Benson added a 19-yard field goal pulling the Tigers within one. But, the one that counted seemed to get away as the Tigers left Atlanta with another tough loss to swallow.
“Just happy and elated to be able to get the win. It didn’t look very good with eight seconds left and them kicking the field goal,” Head coach Rubin Carter said.
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