Florida A&M (1-6, 1-3) gave its homecoming crowd something to cheer for in Saturday’s football game against the Delaware State Hornets (0-6, 0-3).
Both teams came in to Saturday’s game winless and were desperately seeking their first victory of the season. FAMU has been on a two-year homecoming drought and hoped to have a different outcome this time around.
The Rattlers pulled off a convincing 41-13 victory behind some early consistent offense and a strong defense.
Redshirt junior quarterback, Carson Royal, picked up from where he left off after the 27-24 loss to North Carolina Central University.
Against NCCU, Royal threw for more than 300 yards and finished with two passing touchdowns. He continued attacking through the air Saturday, throwing for 229 yards, completing 14 of his 31 passing attempts, three of those passes being touchdowns. The early offense is what he believes sparked the victory.
“From the jump we had a lot of energy,” Royal said. “We came out, we started completing some passes and just moving the ball down the field; really we just came out with a lot of intentions to do great things today and make plays and I think that’s what we did.”
The offense finished with 374 yards and two turnovers. Running back Devondrick Nealy added to the touchdown party with his own five-yard run in the third quarter.
On defense, the Rattlers dominated, forcing five turnovers and holding the Hornets to only 90 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Senior linebackers, Akil Blount and Kashawn Butler led the defense and sealed the victory with two late-game interceptions.
Blount intercepted DSU’s quarterback, Gil Rivera’s pass early in the fourth quarter and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, giving FAMU a 21-point lead. Butler’s interception came later in the fourth quarter, returning it for 50 yards before being tackled.
Both were excited and relieved to get the first win of the season for the team and the fans.
“Just a great win, long time coming,” Blount said. “We’ve just been waiting for this moment, working for this moment, and being patient for this moment. We really wanted to get this win for Rattler Nation. Being a senior linebacker, I’ve really grown to have an appreciation for this community, and this fan base. It’s homecoming, no better time to get this win and I’m just glad to be able to do this.”
The 0-6 start for the Rattlers does not sit well with the team because they know that at least two out of the six games could have gone differently. Butler said that the feeling of finally putting a team away in dominant fashion is special.
“It feels great!” Butler said. “Everyday, us, these guys, we never gave up even though we were in this hole, we’re not giving up, and we know it’s a tough battle. We know we’re supposed to win games, but proper preparation prevents a poor performance. We just keep preparing, keep working hard and keep coming to play and we’re going to be doing that for the rest of the season.”
The first win for the Rattlers means the first win for head Coach Alex Wood as well. He expressed how proud he is of his group of young men and their continued efforts to fight through this tough season.
“I’m proud of the way our kids played, they hung in there, they played hard from the start and all the way to the end,” Wood said. “We did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball, we had a couple of turnovers that we didn’t like, but all-in-all, we played winning football today, good enough to beat our opponent and that’s what’s key."
The Rattlers get a break next weekend with their bye week and will continue their home stand on Oct. 31 against North Carolina A&T University at 5 p.m. ET.