Rattler fans will be departing this afternoon to Atlanta in anticipation of the 21st Annual Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic. However, Tennessee State fans might not be so eager to make the four-hour drive from Nashville, knowing that their chance of leaving the Georgia Dome with a victory could be very slim.
The Florida A&M Rattlers (2-1, 2-0 in Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference) have dominated the rivalry against the Tennessee State Tigers (1-2) winning eight consecutive games in the Classic.
Although the Rattlers will be without quarterback Curtis Pulley, who passed for 315 yards and two touchdowns in last season’s win, they still return several players that were key in their 2009 victory. Lookout for senior wide receiver Isaac West, who led the receiving corps catching six passes for 134 yards with one touchdown against TSU in their last meeting.
The Rattlers’ ground attack will try to strike early in the contest, as running backs Phillip Sylvester and Eddie Rocker attempt to duplicate their performances from the previous match-up against the Tigers.
Sophomore Eddie Rocker was the Rattlers’ top rusher against Tennessee State last season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Senior Phillip Sylvester also contributed to the running game, scoring one touchdown for the Rattlers that gave their offense momentum going into the second half.
Tennessee State will have to battle FAMU this season without two-time Atlanta Classic MVP running back Calvin McNairl, who rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown in the 2009 game. The Tigers still have a running threat in senior running back Preston Brown, who has been very impressive this season.
Brown leads the TSU rushing attack with back-to-back games of 100 or more yards this season. He is also ranked sixth in the nation (FCS), averaging 127.3 rushing yards per game.
The Tigers will have to find a way to stop the Rattlers’ high-powered offense if they are going to break their eight-game losing streak in the Classic. Nonetheless, if FAMU’s defense lets TSU establish a running game, the Tigers’ losing streak could possibly come to a halt after nearly a decade.
They will start at 4 p.m. Saturday and it will be nationally televised on Versus. Follow the Famuan’s live blog of the game at www.thefamuanonline.com