TAMPA —FAMU returned to Raymond James Stadium for the fourth time since the Rattlers’ first matchup with University of South Florida in 2005.
Saturday’s result was the same as in the first three games — a loss — but the 31-17 outcome was FAMU’s closest game yet with USF.
After a successful win against Fort Valley State University last week, the Rattlers fell short in their attempt to keep the momentum going.
“Today I felt that these guys played with a lot of heart — a lot of fight,” Coach Willie Simmons said. “They didn’t quit. We just didn’t play well enough to win. That falls on my shoulders as the head football coach and the rest of the staff, making sure these guys are mentally prepared to take on a team of this caliber.”
Simmons said the Rattlers, now 1-2, have yet to play their best. He plans to get back to the drawing board.
“The bye week comes at a really great time. [It] gives us a chance to study ourselves as coaches and make sure that we are playing the right schemes, [and] playing the right guys,” Simmons said.
The defense had a promising start as safety Markquese Bell caused a fumble inside then 10-yard line during USF’s opening drive. That led to a FAMU field goal and a 3-0 lead.
But it didn’t last long. The Bulls made a touchdown near the end of the quarter making the score 10-3.
During the second quarter, place kicker Chris Faddoul (#43) suffered an injury to his knee during a non-contact field goal.
Simmons is unsure what the prognosis is and if he will return for the season. Faddoul came back after recovering from a previous leg injury that kept him from playing during the spring season.
USF scored two second-quarter touchdowns to take a commanding 24-3 lead at the half.
The Rattlers scored their first touchdown of the game during the third quarter when Terrell Jennings ran 33 yards into the end zone. That closed the gap to 31-10.
FAMU quarterback Resean McKay, under heavy pressure much of the game, was 25-49 passing for 248 yards.
“We can just clean up the little things, I felt that we had some opportunities to make some big plays,” Simmons said.
Team leader and wide receiver Xavier Smith had 15 receptions for 139 yards. “Those guys played a great game, they did what they were supposed to do,” he said, discussing USF’s defense. “As far as us on the offensive end, the O-line blocked well, the running backs ran the ball hard, Resean threw the ball well, and the receivers picked up. We just have to cap out those drives that we get down the field and we [have] to score,” he said.
They had a total of 132 rushing yards and more first downs than USF. (20-18)
Smith thinks that this game against a NCAA Division l school will help as the Rattlers prepare for conference opponents in the SWAC.
“Defense plays well every game and offense is picking up. We definitely can see what type of team we got this year,” Bell said.
FAMU’s next game is on Saturday, Oct. 2 at home against Alabama A&M.