In the first ever meeting between Samford and Florida A&M on Saturday, the Bulldogs exploded for 17 first-quarter points and never trailed as they secured a 27-20 victory to conclude their season-opening, three-game road trip.
“For some reason we started out slow, very slow,” FAMU head coach Earl Holmes said. “And I didn’t get that sense before we kicked the ball off.”
The Bulldogs (2-1) dominated the entire first quarter, forcing three three-and-outs defensively and scoring on each offensive drive.
Freshman kicker Warren Handrahan opened the scoring as he converted a 47-yard field goal attempt to cap Samford’s 10-play, 43-yard opening drive.
The Bulldogs’ next drive began with a 42-yard run from sophomore running back D’Morrise Bledsoe (9 rush, 74 yards), and senior running back Fabian Truss (26 rush, 115 yards, 1 TD) would punch in the touchdown from eight yards out three plays later with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter.
After another FAMU three-and-out, Samford blocked the Rattlers (1-2) punt and took possession inside FAMU territory at the 24-yard line. After a heavy dose of Truss with five straight carries, senior quarterback Andy Summerlin sneaked it into the end zone from one yard out.
Samford would force another three-and-out and start its next drive at FAMU’s 21 after a 37-yard punt return by Truss, who finished with 240 all-purpose yards. But on third and five, sophomore cornerback Patrick Aiken would change the game as he jumped a Summerlin pass and dashed 93 yards downfield for the touchdown.
“I saw the formation, and I basically knew what play was coming,” Aiken said. “So I saw my chance; I jumped it.”
The Rattlers would force a point and start their next drive inside their own five. But a semblance of a running game would set up a playaction pass nine plays in that found junior receiver Lenworth Lennon (5 catches, 78 yards) streaking down the sideline for a 50-yard gain.
On the next play, Fleming would toss a jump ball into the corner of the end zone to 6-foot-6 junior Casey Glines for the touchdown. However, FAMU trailed 17-13 after the extra point attempt was blocked.
A 49-yard kickoff return by Truss set up the Bulldogs inside FAMU territory for their last drive of the half, which resulted in a nine-yard touchdown pass to take a 24-13 lead.
“Sometimes we had guys in position, we just didn’t make the play,” Holmes said of his kickoff and punt teams.
After a series a punts to start the second half, junior cornerback Terry Johnson jumped a route and went 28 yards the other way for the Rattlers’ second pick-six of the day.
But from that point on, Josh Kimberlin would be the difference in the game. The sophomore safety would end each of the Rattlers’ next three drives with an interception, the last of which came on a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Samford.
“At the end of the day, we had a chance to win the game,” Holmes said. “That’s what it’s about.”
The Rattlers will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday. Kickoff is at noon.