Saturday’s homecoming game against the Norfolk State University Spartans brought excitement back into Bragg Memorial Stadium.
In the first quarter, on first and 10 on Norfolk State’s 23 yard-line, the crowd of 17,049 viewed the Rattler’s wildcat formation for the first time.
The play was a direct snap to senior return man Leroy Vann. Vann rushed for no gain and went back to the sideline.
The crowd cheered anyway.
“You just can’t tell guys, [to] lift their spirits,” said Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor. “We just tried to do something to create some excitement, more spirit.”
Vann rushed for 24 yards on 5 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Vann’s success on punt returns and kickoffs has been negated by teams squib kicking or kicking out of bounds over the past four games.
The Rattlers (5-2, 3-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) out-rushed the Spartans (3-4, 2-3 in the MEAC) 290 yards to 118 yards in Saturday’s 34-20 victory.
The wildcat offense looks to implement Vann’s playmaking abilities in an offensive setting where the ball is placed directly in his hands.
“The NFL people who come by have been asking us and [Vann] if he’s ever done any offensive stuff,” Taylor said. “We wanted to put it on film to the NFL people that he could carry the football.”
Junior running back Philip Sylvester rushed for a season-high 92 yards on 18 carries. Sylvester ran for 23 yards and a touchdown out of the “Wild Rattler” formation.
“We’re putting more speed on the boundries and getting vertical,” Sylvester said “That’s what it’s all about.”
Sylvester’s touchdown was the only one the formation accounted for. Taylor was pleased to see the new formation in action and was impressed by the results.
“After last week we just went back to practice and just decided we wanted to add some fun,” Taylor said. “Certainly we’re capable with our running backs to run [the wildcat]. Every once in a while you just have to create spirit.”
Sylvester praised the blocking that opened holes in the third ranked Spartan rushing defense.
“We didn’t do much different,” said redshirt-junior offensive tackle Christopher Sands. “We just block the scheme. With players like Philip and Leroy in the backfield, it just gives us another dimension for our offense.”
This Saturday the Rattlers will take on the Morgan State University Bears.
The Bears (5-2, 3-1 in the MEAC) and the Rattlers are tied for second place in the MEAC. The Rattlers will look to use the new offensive formation against a Bears defense that is currently second worst in the MEAC, allowing 184 yards per game.
“It’s just to create stress on the defense,” said Sylvester, in regards to the formation. “Just give them a different look, give them more to prepare for.”