Last year, ESPN chose to host College Gameday Live before the Howard University and Florida A&M University game. This year, the game is nationally televised on a Thursday night by ESPN-U. If there were any doubts about the importance of this conference match-up, they should be gone.
FAMU did not underestimate the importance of this game for a second, and defeated the Howard University Bison convincingly, 48-10.
“There is no substitute for success. These guys have been working since January, 5:45 in the morning. Each time you win, that’s really the only acceptable outcome. It’s really satisfactory,” said Coach Joe Taylor.
The Rattlers came out firing, completely nonplussed by the rain, sparked by a huge opening kick return of 68 yards by return specialist and cornerback Leroy Vann.
“It’s not just me out there, I have to thank my special teams. They go out there and create the holes and block for me. I couldn’t do anything without them out there,” Vann said.
The huge return was the first of many for Vann, and it set up the game’s first touchdown by the Rattlers after only three plays. Vann had two touchdowns on punt returns, one for 66 yards and the other for 40 yards. With those two returns, Vann has tied the the record for most punt returns for a touchdown in a single career, a mark previously held by Northern Iowa’s Kenny Shedd.
The first touchdown was scored by junior tailback, Philip Sylvester. This was Sylvester’s first return to the starting lineup after missing the first two games due to injury.
“You never know what you have until it’s gone. Sitting on the bench for two games didn’t feel good,” Sylvester said.
The rushing attack was huge in one of FAMU’s most balanced efforts to date, with 203 yards on the ground and 196 yards through the air. Sylvester contributed 55 yards on 11 carries, and freshman running back Eddie Rocker had nine carries for 59 yards. The rushing attack kept the defense from zeroing in on senior quarterback Curtis Pulley, giving him plenty of time to strike through the air.
“Just knowing that I have guys that can make plays at any position makes my job that much easier,” Pulley said.
By halftime, FAMU had run away with the game with a score of 34-10. Six of those points came on field goals by Trevor Scott, who passes his career long for field goals twice in one game. The first time was for 47 yards, and the second was for 51 yards, one yard shy of the school record of 52.
FAMU’s defense managed to shut out the Bison in the second half, and only allowed for a total of 153 yards on the game. They also recovered two key fumbles from Howard running backs that contributed to further sealing away the game.
By the fourth quarter, the Rattlers had the game sealed, and Taylor felt comfortable letting the starters take a rest.
“We needed a solid third quarter, just to get the starters some rest. It’s about depth, but also those guys practice, and it’s a reward to play when you practice. Whenever you can preserve [the team] by spreading out the hits, it really helps the team,” Taylor said.
With this win, FAMU improves to 3-0 on the season, 2-0 in the Mid-Easter Athletic Conference. While FAMU is looking to enjoy this win, they are already looking ahead to the Atlanta Classic.
“You still take the games one at a time. Even though we’re 3-0 right now, we’re going to go to work, and look at Tennessee State,” Taylor said.