Rattlers fall to Aggies in OT

The celebration that erupted inside Bragg Memorial Stadium after Florida A&M tied the game against North Carolina A&T with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter was short-lived.

“At the end of the day, we finally made a play on offense to seal the victory,” head coach Earl Holmes said.

But the excitement quickly turned into disappointment as Chase Varnadore‘s extra point to win the game sailed wide, which led to a 20-13 overtime loss.

“It was a bad snap, bad hold, bad kick,” Holmes said. “And that’s pretty much the way it’s been for us.”

The Aggies (4-3, 2-3 MEAC) handed the ball off to Tarik Cohen twice to start the extra session. And after a FAMU player was penalized for a late hit out of bounds, the freshman running back took a pitch eight yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Damien Fleming was sacked for an 11-yard loss when the Rattlers (2-6, 1-3 MEAC) took the field to tie. But an interception on fourth down ended the game.

FAMU hasn’t won at home in nearly a year since defeating North Carolina Central University 22-21 on Nov. 10.

The Aggies stuck to their game plan, running the ball 60 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Cohen (32 rushes, 210 yards, 3 TD) and Dominique Drake (10 rushes, 52 yards) spearheaded the rushing attack, both averaging more than five yards per carry.

Conversely, the Rattlers could only muster 179 yards of total offense, which Holmes said is unacceptable.

“We gotta find a way to be up in the 300-yard area,” he said. “We got the guys that can do it, we just gotta get it done.”

Fleming, who led the 96-yard, game-tying drive with less than three minutes and two timeouts, accounted for 81 yards on that drive – the remaining 15 came from defensive pass interference. He saw the Aggies dropping their defensive backs and linebackers into coverage and took advantage.

“I was able to just take what they were giving me with my feet,” said Fleming, who ran for 34 yards on the drive before connecting with Dewayne Harvey for an 8-yard touchdown.

Junior defensive back Shaun Ward scored FAMU’s first touchdown midway through the third quarter on a 17-yard interception return.

“Right before the interception, I said, ‘Defense, we gotta score,’ ” Ward said. “I just came out and said that we have to score. We gotta make plays to help our offense, motivate our offense and get it going.”

But the offense struggled for most of the day, only converting 2-of-15 third-down attempts. Fleming (16-36, 122 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was sacked three times but still led the team in rushing with a net of 21 yards. 

The Rattlers will travel to Virginia to play Norfolk State University on Saturday, Kickoff is at 2 p.m.