Expect a dogfight this Saturday at Bragg Memorial Stadium when the top two teams in the MEAC face off. The Rattlers are looking for their sixth straight win and to extend the series over North Carolina A&T State (45-19-3).
FAMU continued its hot streak beating South Carolina State 42-38 on Saturday. For the fourth straight game it was close. In last year’s matchup against the Aggies, the Rattlers came out on top 22-21 at Aggie Stadium.
FAMU quarterback Ryan Stanley surpassed Quinn Gray to become FAMU’s all time leading passer during Saturday’s win.
FAMU kicker Yahia Aly said NCA&T is considered the league’s top team, and that FAMU needs to focus if it wants a repeat of last October’s game.
“I’m honestly very excited to be playing against one of the top teams in the FCS. This matchup is going to be between two very great teams,” he said. “I’m just very blessed that I get to have the ability to possibly affect the outcome of this game.
“We just need to focus on ourselves and nothing else. NCAT is a great team, but we are the ones controlling our destiny,” Aly said.
An area of concern for FAMU will be NCAT running back Jah-Maine Martin. The Rattlers rank second in the conference in rushing defense but Martin has averaged 9.3 a carry and rushed for 742 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
For the Rattlers to win this game the defense must contain the Aggies running back. They can’t let Martin run wild and score multiple times. The Rattlers will have to stack the box to contain him and force the quarterback to throw the ball.
Another area of concern is the Aggies’ rushing defense, which leads the MEAC. Last week Bishop Bonnett rushed for 37 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown. He was injured in the middle of the game. But the Rattlers will need to establish a run game to stay in this game and compete.
There is an area of hope that works in the Rattlers’ favor, and that is the passing game. FAMU ranks first in passing offense against an Aggies defense that ranks No. 8 in passing defense. Expect Stanley to have a big day along with the help of Xavier Smith, who has proven to be the MEAC’s top receiver.
Coach Willie Simmons has a tough task on his hands this week. He must figure out a game plan for dealing with Martin and establish a run game against the No. 1 run defense in the MEAC.
“Coach just keeps reminding us that we need to be taking this week, day by day and focusing on the fundamentals. We started by beating NCAT when we returned to practice on Tuesday,” Aly said.
The game takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bragg Memorial stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN3.