Following two straight victories, one on the national stage, Florida A&M University’s Rattlers are set to take on Howard University’s Bison on Thursday at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
This is the second consecutive Thursday night game, meaning it will be a 7:30 p.m. game nationally televised by ESPNU.
The Rattlers are currently 2-0, 1-0 in the conference, and extend their conference lead with a victory over Howard, currently 1-0 following a 45-7 loss to Rutgers. Howard has yet to play a conference game, and in college football, it’s the conference standing that counts when the playoffs come around.
FAMU has not lost a game to Howard since the 2003 season, but Coach Taylor is not underestimating Howard’s chance at winning the game. Howard quarterback Floyd Haigler has proven to be capable under center, passing for 151 yards in his game against Rutgers and accounting for the Bison’s lone touchdown.
“Haigler is a much improved quarterback from last year, they have a new offensive coordinator, they have trap plays in their formation, they have power plays. [Haigler] is probably the best quarterback we’ve seen to date,” Taylor said.
Containment of the quarterback falls squarely on the shoulders of the defense, which so far has performed admirably, allowing 12 and 10 points in games against Delaware State University and Winston Salem State University respectively.
On offense, quarterback Curtis Pulley will look to capitalize on a Bison defense that allowed a total of 468 yards against Rutgers, 223 of those through the air. Both through the air and on the ground, Pulley is a threat that the Bison will half to account for.
“When we turn around and see him run, we just try and hit the first person we see,” said Issac West, third-year receiver, on blocking for Pulley when the play breaks down.
Improvement between games is something that has been stressed since the first game of the season, and Coach Taylor is still looking for more improvement between games two and three.
“There’s no way we should be as good now as we hope to be going down the stretch. We’re on a good course, but no where near reaching our potential,” Taylor said.
One area FAMU is looking to improve as Thursday night approaches is in the mental mistake area. Penalties have plagued the Rattlers over the past two games, with a total of 18 for 166 yards on the season so far.
FAMU has received extra help from the special teams side of the football. In the first game against Del. State, senior cornerback and return man Leroy Vann set the offense in prime scoring position, and against WSSU, Vann accounted for two touchdowns on returns.
“I just keep doing what I always do,” Vann said about his return game.
This is the first home game since the home game against Del. State, where a stray bullet in a shooting following the game injured running back Lonvontae Page. Although security is a concern, Coach Taylor is more concerned with the team’s performance on the field.
“The bottom line is that was an isolated situation. You still have to go about life as you always do, we’re not into knee jerk reacting. It was unfortunate, but to be honest, our concern is what happens on the field,” Taylor said.