Under Thursday night lights the (4-2) Florida A&M University Rattlers defeated the Winston Salem State University Rams (1-5) by a score of 23-0.
In an ESPNU televised non-conference battle, their 23-0 shutout victory keeps the team on track for a winning season towards a MEAC title in the first year of the Taylor Era.
The Rattlers lost the opening coin toss giving WSSU the opportunity to receive the first kick-off. After losing the last game, FAMU showed clear signs of intensity as their starting defense took the field.
On the Rams’ first possession, their offense took the field with intentions of opening the passing game early. With three failed attempts at a first down, the Rattler defense forced their opponents into a punt situation.
FAMU starting quarterback Eddie Battle took snaps behind the center with sophomore running back Phillip Sylvester lined up in the backfield. With a pair of short runs for small gains, the Rattlers were unable to convert on third down to continue their opening drive.
WSSU quarterback, Tienne Jefferson, consistently overthrew receivers because of misconstrued pass reads. Rattler defensive backs were toe-to-toe covering receivers on their routes. The Rattlers persistent defensive pressures forced another three and out for the rattled Ram offense.
Transfer quarterback, Curtis Pulley displayed early chemistry with freshman receiver Kevin Elliot. The Rattler offensive line demonstrated proper blocking technique allowing ample time for Pulley to make decisions. Conservative play calling by the offense developed into a successful drive ending with a field goal.
“No win comes easy,” Pulley said. “That was a good time. We played out there. We just made more plays than they did. We threw the ball a lot which made the receivers real happy.”
Ahead (3-0) early in the first quarter the Rattlers gained a small chunk of momentum. Following another triumphant defensive stand by the Rattlers, Eddie Battle led the offense back onto the field.
Balanced as usual, Battle found open receivers stranded on islands in the Ram secondary for completions.
“As a receiving core we work hard together. After practice we try to learn and perfect our routes with the help of each other and Coach Jerry,” said wide receiver Issac West about the receivers.
The Rattlers mixed their offensive play calling up with runs and passes productively making their way into the red zone. Battle capped the drive with a rushing touchdown from the 1-yard line increasing the lead to (10-0).
With the Rattler defensive line in heavy pursuit, the WSSU offense continued to fold like clothes fresh out of the dryer.
Following another WSSU punt quarterback Curtis Pulley took the field to call plays for the Rattler offense. Pulley, used his feet as well as his arm to create plays for the offense.
Pulley threaded the needle with a pass to sophomore Adrian Smith for a 13 yard score approaching halftime.
At the half, the Rattlers maintained a (17-0) lead over the Rams.
Battle and Pulley combined for a total of 175 passing yards. WSSU only accumulated 75 yards of total offense in two quarters.
“We realized that we’re a 50/50 team meaning that if the run game isn’t there we have confidence to air it out,” said Battle of the offense. “The offensive line did a great job in blocking.”
The Rattlers continued to work on all cylinders in the third quarter.
“We practiced real hard even though we had a short week. During practice we focused on individual assignments so in the game everybody was trying to make plays,” said Vernon Wilder about the defense.
Pulley conducted the offense on a six play 49 yard drive that ended in a 2-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Lavontae Paige.
Head football coach Joe Taylor said the team was overall successful this game.
“We moved the football well,” Taylor said. “Had a turnover, but we feel good about the shutout.”