Rattlers Set for Victory

In last week’s press conference leading up to FAMU’s game against Florida, coach Billy Joe said he expected to be more than just competitive against the Gators – he expected to win.

Outside of his team and coaching staff, hardly anyone else shared those expectations.

This week, FAMU (1-2) will face a much-improved Tennessee State team in the annual Atlanta Football Classic. When Joe said he expected to win this game, he actually had some believers this time.

“We left Florida rather [shamefully],” coach Billy Joe said. “We went up there to win, but it didn’t happen. Now we have to prepare for Tennessee State.”

FAMU has two major concerns going into Saturday’s game against the Tigers (2-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference). First is the health of quarterback Ben Dougherty, who injured his shoulder during the second quarter of the Rattlers’ loss to Florida.

“I’d say my shoulder is about 60 to 65 percent,” Dougherty said. “It’s a big improvement from where it was right after [last week’s] game.”

If Dougherty doesn’t go, freshman Charles McCullum, who played most of the second half against the Gators, will make his first collegiate start.

The Rattlers’ second concern, Joe said, is a letdown emotionally from last Saturday. The team put a lot of energy into its match-up and the end result, a 63-3 defeat, did not bode well for their confidence.

“You try to spin a positive out of [last Saturday’s] game, but there’s nothing positive about 63-3,” said defensive end Sean Kelly.

While it may not seem like it to some of the players, there were certainly positives from the loss. The offensive line, which suffered injuries to two starters early in the season, played very well and the running game finally stepped up. FAMU had 175 rushing yards, 61 more than Miami had two weeks ago against the Gators.

“Our offensive line did an outstanding job,” Joe said. “That was a pleasant surprise for me.”

In three games, TSU has matched its win total from all of last season. The Tigers’ offense has been the major surprise so far averaging over 35 points per game.

Running back Charles Anthony is one of the main reasons for the Tigers’ early success. Anthony leads the team in rushing (383 yards, 6.5 per carry) and receiving (10 catches, 123 yards), and has seven total touchdowns.

The Rattlers have won 15 of the last 18 games against the Tigers, dating back to 1988. With FAMU’s move to Division I-A, the Rattlers are allowed to play only two I-AA schools per year. The athletic department has already said this game will be one of the two that will continue to be scheduled in future seasons.

Kevin Fair can be reached at kfair1@mail.com