Norfolk State collapses quickly under Rattlers Strike

FAMU put Norfolk State away early Saturday. Very early.

On just the second play from scrimmage, 36 seconds into the game, running back Rashard Pompey ran for a 19-yard touchdown. That touchdown opened up an offensive explosion as the Rattlers blew out the Spartans 60-10.

26,514 fans, the biggest crowd of the year at Bragg Memorial Stadium, watched the Rattlers (5-4) snap their two game losing streak. FAMU also avoided losing three in a row for the first time in coach Billy Joe’s 10 seasons. The Spartans (1-7, 0-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), on the other hand, have dropped their sixth straight game.

“As a senior, I really just wanted to come out and lay it all on the line. Everybody on that field did a great job,” said linebacker Shedrick Copeland who, along with the rest of FAMU’s seniors, played their last game at home Saturday.

As expected, FAMU had no trouble moving the ball on the lowest-ranked defense in the MEAC. Things went so well on offense for the Rattlers that they went the entire game without having to punt. In addition to Pompey’s early score, fullback Paul Sharpe also ran for a 12-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. With a field goal sandwiched between the two touchdown runs, the Rattlers scored as many points in the first quarter of this game (16) as they have all season.

“We have a tendency to start slow, but our plan was get on the board quick this game,” quarterback Ben Dougherty said. “We have the potential to put up 60 points every game, if we don’t make mistakes.”

FAMU’s rushing attack, which has struggled mightily for most of the year, turned in its best effort accumulating 179 yards and three scores on the ground in the first half.

The defense put together yet another solid effort. Until Norfolk’s last drive of the first half, the Spartans had more yards on kick returns than on offense.

The only aspect of the game where FAMU faltered was kickoff coverage. NSU’s Monte Anthony and Joey Bennett combined to average 22 yards per kick return, and the Spartans’ average starting field position was their 29-yard line.

“We executed much better this game than we have in the past,” said Joe, who moved into a tie for second place on the wins list (233) among Black college football coaches. “Our Achilles’ heel on defense is giving up third and fourth and longs, and we didn’t do that today.”

Dougherty, who finished the game with 277 total yards and three scores, left late in the third quarter, and backup Toney Scott promptly came in and drove the Rattlers 58 yards to another touchdown. The four rushing scores for FAMU was the most in a game this season.

Next week, the Rattlers will take on Hampton on the road. A win against the Pirates will secure FAMU’s 10th straight winning season.