Florida A&M University senior quarterback Curtis Pulley did more against Norfolk State University’s defense in one half Saturday than other teams have been able to accomplish in entire games this season.
Pulley rushed for a game-high 185 yards and a touchdown, leading the Rattlers (5-2, 3-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) to a 34-20 homecoming victory against the Spartans in front of a crowd 17,049 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
The Spartans (3-4, 2-3 in the MEAC) came in to Saturday’s game holding teams to 96.8 yards rushing a game. Pulley rushed for 156 yards in the first half against the Spartans.
“Pulley,” Norfolk State head coach Pete Adrian said in the post-game press conference. “That’s all you have to say. The kid’s a heck of a player. I’m glad he’s senior and gone. He’s the difference maker.”
This was the first game Pulley rushed for more than 100 yards this season since rushing for 196 yards in the season opener against Delaware State Sept. 5. Pulley just didn’t do it on the ground either, passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 13 of 22 passing.
Pulley credited his offensive line for giving him the protection to have such a big game. Pulley was sacked twice Saturday after being sacked a total of six times in the past two games.
“The line did a great job of picking up their blitzes in the first half,” Pulley said. “We just tried to take advantage of what the defense was giving us.”
The Rattlers gained 463 yards of total offense, the third time this season the offense has eclipsed the 400-yard mark in total offense.
“We just emphasized putting everything on our shoulders this week,” said offensive lineman Christopher Sands. “If we don’t do our job then nothing happens.”
Adrian said his plan was to come out an pressure Pulley. The Spartans’ pressure was neutralized, however, by Pulley’s speed and scrambling ability.
“We just couldn’t contain him,” Norfolk State defensive back Anthony Taylor said. “When he would take off we just had bad angles. He just torched us.”
Other standouts for the Rattlers included junior running back Philip Sylvester who rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown and senior fullback Mykel Benson, who caught game-high five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s just a great advantage just to have a pass catching fullback,” said Pulley. “Most teams don’t even cover the fullback so we just try and get him the ball as much as possible.
Benson said after the game the the Spartans weren’t expecting him. The same could probably be said about the Rattlers’ version of the wildcat formation, which they unveiled Saturday.
Sylvester scored out of the formation in the second half when he took a direct snap 22 yards to the endzone. Senior return man Leroy Vann and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Elliott also took snaps behind center in the formation.
“Any time you can create stress on a defense, you want to do it,” said Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor. “Anytime Vann got the ball in his hands, it’s stress. Not every play is going to go for a touchdown but you’re trying to create stress. It’s a jab, trying to take the will out of the opponent.”
With Pulley back on track and new “Wild Rattler” offense at his disposal, Taylor is looking to add more stress to upcoming apponent Morgan State a week from now in Baltimore, Md.
“You work,” Taylor said. “I know we had a really good work week. It looked like we were more focused in practice. When you have that you expect to come out and execute.”