Rattlers prepare for ‘Classic’ battle

For motivation in the match-up Saturday against Tennessee State, the Rattlers will need to look no further than last year’s game against Tennessee State University. The Tigers handed the Rattlers an ugly 27-7 defeat in the annual Atlanta Football Classic.

“That game was a big wake-up call for us,” junior cornerback Shedrick Copeland said. “We felt that we should’ve won. Even during the game when we got down, we felt we were going to come back.”

That was the second game in a five-game winning streak to start the season for TSU. This year, the Tigers are 1-3, but Rattler senior offensive tackle Fletcher Williams says he is not fooled by their record.

“They are a great team. I watched their game last week and they did a lot of things well. We can’t come into this game lackadaisical like we did last year,” Williams said.

The Rattlers (3-1, 2-0 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) will take a three-game winning streak into Saturday. Since losing to Miami in the opening week of the season, FAMU has averaged 39 points and 508 yards per game in wins against Morris Brown, Morgan State and Delaware State.

The defense, led by junior safety Levy Brown, who leads the team in tackles and interceptions, has held opponents to just 13 points per game during the three-game stretch.

Tennessee State opened the season with a loss to MEAC opponent South Carolina State. After winning their second game against Prairie View, the Tigers dropped its next two against Jackson State and Grambling.

Despite the slow start, Tennessee State has shown some bright spots. The Tigers’ offense features a pair of native Floridian running backs in sophomore Charles Anthony (from Orlando), who leads the team with 261 yards rushing, and senior John Sanders (from Coral Springs), who has 253 yards. Anthony ran for 133 yards and a touchdown in last year’s win over the Rattlers. FAMU head coach Billy Joe feels the Tigers ability to run the ball will be his team’s major concern.

“(Anthony and Sanders) are quality backs that may not be big in stature, but they run the ball extremely well and are extremely tough. There’s no question that we are going to have our hands full with them,” Joe said.

The Rattlers have a running game of its own, with sophomore Devvin Richardson and freshman Rashard Pompey. The Rattlers also will get veteran Kelsie Lordeus back, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after he received a medical redshirt in 2000.

FAMU will conclude a three-game road trip, it’s longest of the season, on Saturday. The Rattlers will then play four out of its next five games at home. Just as important, all five games will be against conference opponents.

At a Glance

The Match-up: Florida A&M Rattlers (3-1, 2-0 in MEAC) vs. Tennessee State Tigers (1-3, 0-0 in Ohio Valley Conference), Atlanta Football Classic, Saturday, 3 p.m., Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

Last week: FAMU defeated Delaware State 20-18; TSU lost to Grambling State 49-14

Last Meeting: Sept. 22, 2001, TSU defeated FAMU 27-7 in Atlanta

Series Record: TSU leads 25-16

Injury Report: FAMU- out: DE Sean Kelly (knee ACL); questionable: OL Gueda Morris (ankle); probable: RB Rashard Pompey (shoulder), LB Rickey Funches (ankle), QB Casey Printers (ankle); TSU- questionable: LB Carnell Myers (shoulder)