Enjoying their seventh Atlanta Classic victory, the (3-1) Florida A&M Rattlers prevailed 28- 21 over (4-1) Tennessee State Tigers.
The Rattlers snapped a four game Tiger winning streak inside the Georgia Dome as 50,428 fans looked on. Head coach Joe Taylor clenched his 200th win after the victory.
The Atlanta Football Classic rivalry between FAMU and TSU dates back to 1944. The record between these two storied schools stood in favor of TSU, but with this win the Rattlers knot the series (24-24).
The Rattlers offense jumped off to an early start in the first quarter. Freshman wide receiver Kevin Elliot was a key asset to the offense’s early success.
Offensive coordinator Lawrence Kershaw mixed up the quarterback rotation early, both Eddie Battle and Curtis Pulley took snaps behind the center.
Battle and Pulley’s aerial assaults displayed precision marksmanship ending the first quarter and completing 100 percent of their passes. The Rattlers displayed great offensive chemistry as the offensive line held up their blocks, allowing plentiful pocket time for both Battle and Pulley.
Transfer quarterback, Curtis Pulley, connected with sophomore wide receiver Adrian Smith, for a 26 yard touchdown pass 9:03 into the first quarter.
“When we execute properly things fall in place and operate like clockwork,” Battle said. “If we continue this process we’re on our way to becoming a great offense.”
The Tigers pass rush was heavy but Battle was balanced and still able to connect with sophomore receiver Isaac West, for a 37 yard completion.
“Tonight I went out there and did the best I could do in remembrance of my sister,” Isaac said. “Throughout the game I just thought of her and kept faith in my lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
Phillip Sylvester was able to carve creases inside the Tigers secondary, piling up 56 rushing yards in the first half. Great blocking and accuracy passes on an 8-play 87-yard drive, set up Junior Demitric Henry for a 10 yard rushing touchdown.
Junior outside line backer Bryan Parker was a wrecking ball for the Rattler defensive unit. He forced fumbles on two separate TSU offensive possessions.
Due to great blocking and superb field vision Curtis Pulley found his offensive niche and scrambled 44 yards for a rattler touchdown.
Following the touchdown that increased the score to 21-0 the Rattler defense seemed vulnerable.
Junior defensive back LeRoy Vann was an electrifying positive feature on the defensive side of the ball.
“We didn’t panic we just played. The coaches told us to go out there and play hard and never to come out of our tree,” said LeRoy about the defense.
Short flare passes created space for TSU wide receiver, JaJuan Spillman, to find enough legroom for a 51 yard reception- setting up senior running back, Javarris Williams, for TSU’s first touchdown. This capped off a 4-play 76 yard drive.
Unable to answer productively on their offensive possession following the Tiger’s touchdown, the Rattler offense was forced to punt. A 55 yard touchdown pass from Heffner to Brandon Belvin, increased the score drawing TSU closer to the lead 21-14.
A productive ground game from Phillip Sylvester created another successful offensive drive. Pulley made a mockery of the TSU defense, breaking ankles and tackles, on his way to the end zone for a 29 yard touchdown run.
“I just used my instinct to make plays happen out there,” Pulley said. “It was my first time playing in a classic game. I used what the defense gave me and made the best of it.”
At halftime FAMU led TSU 28-14 with their offense working on all cylinders and their defense standing tall as tree. At halftime Bryan Parker and Jason Beach were leading the defense in tackles.
“I’m 4-0 in this classic. It’s getting bigger and better every year people like the Florida classics so much they come to Atlanta,” Beach said.
Eddie Battle said, “Coming into the second half we started to lose focus and got hurt by penalties.”
Nearing the final minute of the game, a 4th quarter comeback seemed as if it were one play away. FAMU sophomore cornerback Qier Hall sealed the victory for the Rattlers with a goal line interception from a Hail Mary pass to the end zone.
“On defense we focused the most on containing the quarterback,” Qier said. “When I got the interception it just felt great to end the game with a team effort.”