Bragg Stadium was a sea of orange and green on opening day as 18,088 fans were in attendance to support the Florida A&M University football team. Fans weren’t disappointed as the Rattlers beat the Alabama State University Hornets, 30-20.
The Rattler offense appeared strong in the first quarter relying heavily on the run game to establish offense.
The Rattlers offensive line led by junior Anthony Collins initiated key blocks, which opened up huge lanes for running backs and allowed starting junior quarterback Eddie Battle to end the night 9 for 15 with 124 passing yards and no interceptions
Battle remained poised behind the center leading the offense down the field with precision passing. On the Rattlers first possession a 60-yard drive ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore Phillip Sylvester and an early 7-0 lead.
The Hornet’s quarterback, Reid Herchenbach, pass offense connected with passes to his recieving unit, including four of which were for first downs. Piling up 86 passing yards in the first quarter ASU tied the score at 7-7 with a 30-yard touchdown pass.
FAMU was able to respond to the touchdown when Battle scampered 17 yards for a Rattler touchdown with 3:06 left on the clock.
FAMU Defensive Coordinator Tim Edwards said the team was successful in the game because of dedication during practice.
“We emphasized basic fundamentals during practice,” Edwards said. “We watched film on (the Hornets). We didn’t know what to expect offensively.” Both teams scored three total touchdowns and combined for 250 all purpose yards in the high powered first quarter.
FAMU offensive Coordinator Lawrence Kershaw said the Rattler run game enabled them to be successful.
“The run game was our main focus,” Kershaw said. “We placed the run as our first priority and passing as our second.”
The Hornets tied the score 14-14 after taking advantage of a costly Battle fumble. But Junior defensive back LeRoy Vann responded with an elusive 99-yard kick return for a touchdown breaking the tie and stretching the lead to 21-14 for the Rattlers just before halftime.
With less than a minute on the clock senior defensive back, Jason Beach grabbed his first interception of the season, picking up 46 yards on the return. With the lead and momentum the Rattlers led the Hornets 21-14 at halftime.
Jason Beach, a senior defensive back from Pensacola said their team changed their strategy for the game after the first half.
“After half time we switched to more man coverage’s and more inside blitz schemes,” Beach said. The Rattler defense turned up its pursuit early in the third quarter, forcing a fumble near the goal line resulting in a safety.
Late in the third quarter Rattler sophomore Isaac West found space in the Hornet secondary for a deep reception near the red zone. With momentum shifting back in the Rattlers direction, the offense went back to the run game. Turnovers and penalties kept the Rattlers out of the end zone.
With 2:20 left in the third quarter the Rattler defense forced the ASU offense into a fourth down situation resulting in a blocked punt, the second Rattler highlight on special teams.
At linebacker senior captain, Vernon Wilder anchored the defensive line the that allowed no ASU rushing touchdowns.
Running back Lonvontae Page ran for a 5-yard touchdown scamper increasing the score to 30-14 heading into the last quarter of play.
Phillip Sylvester led the team in rushing with 4 attempts for 29 yards, and in receiving with 4 receptions for 46 yards.
ASU scored only one touchdown in the last quarter of play resulting in a 30-20 score as the final.
FAMU gave Joe Taylor a win in his debut as head coach beating ASU for the first time since 1977. Saturday also marked the first opening day win for FAMU in four seasons.
Players seemed to be excited about the teams potential following the win.
“Before the game Coach Taylor said it was a new day with a new beginning.” On Sept. 4 team travels to Delaware State in hopes of continuing their winning streak.