Florida A&M’s football team beat the Hampton Pirates 44-20 Saturday night in the Rattler’s home opener at Bragg Stadium.
Junior running back James Owens put on a show for the home crowd rushing for 157 yards and scoring three touchdowns on 11 carries. Owens finished with 282 all-purpose yards including 8 yards receiving and 117 kick return yards.
“The offensive line had a great week of practice,” said Owens. “They came out and played with lots of energy and when they play like that we’ll definitely have success.”
Damien Fleming also added to what was an explosive night offensively for the Rattlers. The sophomore QB completed 22 out of 29 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns.
Fleming was locked in all night, targeting five different receivers throughout the game. Both Lenworth Lennon and Travis Harvey had seven receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown a piece. Fleming’s final TD pass of the night went to Michael Etheridge who had 30 yards on two receptions.
“The offensive line and our running backs made my job very easy,” said Fleming. “Hampton really didn’t know what to expect from our offense and because of that we were able to put up 44 points.”
The Pirates managed to stay within striking distance for much of the game, but the Rattlers iced the game in the 3rd quarter when James Owens spun and outran a plethora of Hampton defenders for 56 yards and his third touchdown of the game.
Although Hampton QB Travis Champion passed for 347 yards, the Rattler defense stood strong throughout the game allowing only 10 points in each half.
Head football coach Joe Taylor was pleased with the Rattler’s performance and more pleased with their progress. He said it’s always good to win especially against a common opponent. Coach Taylor previously coached at Hampton University. Taylor said the game came down to alignment, assignment and technique.
“We showed improvement over last week and that is the way it should be,” said Taylor. “We are starting to understand our concepts.”
Taylor continued, “We don’t ever worry about being a champion on game day. We worry about being a champion everyday.”
Senior LB Brandon Hepburn led the defensive attack with 10 tackles. Both LB William Smalls and DB Jonathon Pillow followed up with seven tackles each.
Pillow intercepted Champion following a play where Fleming was intercepted, swinging the momentum back in the Rattler’s favor and energizing the crowd.
The FAMU crowd numbered more than 17, 800 fans, amid speculation that games at Bragg Stadium would lack attendance without the famed Marching “100.” FAMU fans were lively from start to finish.
“The crowd played a huge part tonight,” said Fleming. “In my short career at FAMU, I’ve honestly never seen our home crowd that hyped and into the game.”
The Rattlers will look to sustain their momentum on the road next week in Dover, Del., as they take on the Delaware State University Hornets.