At halftime of the Florida A&M football game on Saturday, head coach Billy Joe knew some adjustments had to be made to defeat a feisty Division II Virginia Union team.
The corrections that he made worked to perfection as FAMU racked up 415 offensive yards en route to a 35-10 victory over VUU in front of 11,098 fans.
“In the first half Virginia Union was getting back really deep and we were trying to throw deep,” Joe said. “We came out in the second half and got back to our short game, our medium range game, and punched some runs up in there. That seemed to get the ball down field and ultimately into the end zone.”
The game began as if the Rattlers (3-2) would manhandle an undersized, unpolished Panthers team. On the Rattlers’ third play from scrimmage and on its own
37-yard line, sophomore wide receiver Roosevelt Kiser caught a pass from senior quarterback Ben Dougherty, made one juke and raced 72-yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt failed giving Rattlers a 6-0 lead, 1:17 into the first quarter.
Kiser had over 100 yards receiving for the second consecutive game, catching four passes for 102 yards.
The route seemed to be on, but on the Rattlers third possession in the first quarter a costly fumble by junior tailback Rashard Pompey was recovered by the Panthers on the Rattlers 47-yard line.
Six plays later, from the Rattlers seven yard-line, Panthers freshman quarterback Michael Henderson connected with junior wide receiver Herb Jones for a touchdown, giving the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
In the second quarter the Rattlers offense got back on track. On a drive that started on the Rattlers own 41-yard line, Dougherty completed six consecutive passes leading to an 8-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Ronnie Thomas, who had two touchdown receptions on the night.
The Rattlers two-point conversion was successful giving the Rattlers a 14-7 lead.
The Panthers (1-5) managed to get a field goal before the end of the half to close the Rattlers lead to 14-10. Players agreed the Rattlers may have been a little over confident coming into Saturday’s contest.
“We watched Virginia Union on film and we thought that we matched up really well with them,” said Dougherty, who completed 20-31 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their defensive line played really well in the first half, we weren’t able to run the ball. What helped in the second half is that we were able to get the running game going.”
The Rattlers hit the ground running in the second half. On its first possession of the third quarter after the Rattlers defense forced VUU to punt the Rattlers offense went to work.
The Rattlers marched 73-yards in eight-plays ending with Dougherty hooking up with Thomas again on a 24-yard touchdown catch and run to widen the Rattlers lead to 21-10.
The Rattlers scored to two fourth quarter touchdowns on a six- yard, five tackle breaking run by Pompey and a three-yard scamper by Dougherty to end the scoring for the night at 35-10.
Defensively, the Rattlers played a solid game holding the Panthers to 325 of total offense, but they believe they could’ve had a better showing against the lower level VUU team.
“You never can be satisfied because there’s always room for improvement,” said senior defensive end Jeff Green. “We are going to look at some film and get some things cleaned up. You can never play a perfect game. I think that we played pretty solid, but we could have played better.”
VUU put up a good fight early, but Joe knew that with the halftime adjustments his team would be victorious in the end.
“I told them (his players) that we have to take what they give us,” Joe said. “We have to take what they were giving us offensively and takeaway what they were giving us defensively and we would be OK. We have superior talent and we have a superior program and they are a Division II school and we’re going at it the wrong way. And it worked for us in the second half.”
On Saturday, The Rattlers will try to win its third consecutive game when they host Nicholls State at 7 p.m. in Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Contact Ryan Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.