Rattlers end losing streak

FAMU football exorcised many of its demons Saturday, with a 36-28 win against the North Carolina A&T Aggies in front of 10,493 at Bragg Memorial Stadium. The win snapped the Rattlers’ three-game losing streak against the Aggies. FAMU had not beaten NC A&T (3-4, 1-2) since 1998.

The Rattlers (5-3, 3-2) also snapped their current two-game losing streak and avoided losing three in a row, which would have been the first time in head coach Billy Joe’s eight-year tenure.

FAMU got off to a fast start, as they have done for most of the season. On the Rattler’s opening drive, quarterback Casey Printers, who started for only the second time in the past five games, went 3-for-3, and connected with receiver Charlie Allen for a 27-yard touchdown.

FAMU was up 9-7 going into perhaps the most important second half of the season. The Rattlers started to pull away at the beginning after Printers connected with receiver Rod Miller for a 19-yard touchdown pass, and a one yard touchdown run by running back Rashard Pompey, who had 119 yards to go along with his touchdown.

“We had a good one-two punch going tonight,” running back Devvin Richardson said. “When we get that going, we’re hard to stop.”

FAMU went up 23-7, until the Aggies gained the momentum and pulled within three. But the Rattlers managed to hold on to the win.

The Rattlers’ 27 second half points was the most they have scored in the second half all season.

“We definitely did a better job in the second half than we had done (in previous weeks), but we still should’ve scored more in the first half,” Joe said. “I’m still happy with our win. I’ll sleep fine tonight.”

Printers played his best game since the second week of the season, throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Although he admitted he wasn’t fully recovered from an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the season, he was still mobile enough to get out of the pocket when he got in trouble, and was also able to throw effectively on the run.

“I felt great out there,” Printers said. “And the fact that we were running the ball so effectively just made things run even smoother on offense.”

FAMU’s defense also played one of its best games of the season. It set the tone early by making the Aggies go three and out on their first two drives. The Rattlers did a good job of rushing the passer, accumulating six sacks and nine tackles for losses in the game. The run defense, which is where FAMU usually struggles, was great, only allowing 27 yards in the first half, and 102 for the game

“I am very pleased with the play of our defense,” Joe said. “We got very stingy during crunchtime.”

FAMU’s special teams, which has been solid all season, did not have a good game and almost let the Rattlers down. The Aggies blocked two punts in Rattler territory, and FAMU punt returner Maurice Demps lost a fumble inside FAMU’s 30-yard line, which A&T turned into a touchdown.

“Special teams was definitely a problem,” Joe said. “It’s really only been for the last couple of weeks. It’s just something that we have to work on.”

With the win, the Rattlers will stay in playoff contention. Although the chances of a third straight MEAC championship may be small, FAMU can still get an at-large playoff bid.

The Rattlers will continue their five game stretch against conference teams next Saturday, when they will travel to Norfolk State.