Hornets end streak, 21-17

Rushing yards, passing yards and time of possession, advantage FAMU. Turnovers and final score; advantage Delaware State.

The Rubin Carter era began with a 21-17 loss to Delaware State, Saturday, under the lights of Bragg Memorial Stadium.

“Certainly the game didn’t turn out like we thought (it) could. We couldn’t stop the (defensive) pressure,” Carter said. “We lack some depth up front…we have to find some players capable of blocking for (the quarterback).”

As soon as it was announced the Rattlers were receiving the opening kick, Peter Gaertner’s kickoff at 7:04 p.m. could not hit the ground fast enough for the 13,814 in attendance. Weeks of anticipation of the new season and new coach were finally a reality, and not just message board dreams.

While the offense may have slightly resembled what the Rattler faithful have been accustomed to seeing, the team was overhauled defensively during the off-season, which helped it allow only 202 yards on the night.

FAMU’s first defensive test came following the offenses’ first of four interceptions as the unit surrendered a few inches to force a 45 -yard field goal by Gaertner.

Any team momentum from the field goal try was short lived. A pair of three-play possessions, by the Rattlers, led to another Gaertner field goal, this time from 43 yards to give the Hornets a 6-0 lead.

No matter how advantageous the Hornets field position was in the first half, they gained possession at midfield four times and they were unable to find the endzone.

“To the most part, the defense came out and played well,” Carter said. “I thought we handled sudden change well. They hit a couple passes on us late in the game.”

Early in the game, neither the Hornets nor Rattlers were completing passes as the two teams combined to go 3-9 for six yards in the first quarter.

The new waves from the Gulf Coast Offense apparently required someone who had more proficiency with a long board instead of a boogie board Saturday. Carter replaced Chester after a third short possession because he was having a “difficult time” adjusting to the speed of the game. Enter red-shirt freshman Chris Owens from Thousand Oaks, Calif. who replaced the Jacksonville native Chester with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

The Rattlers were not alone on the steepness of the quarterbacking learning curve. Red-shirt freshman Vashon Winton completed 57 percent of his passes for 119 yards in his first collegiate start, but he like Chester and Owens, struggled in the first half completing only five of his 11 attempts for 23 yards.

None of that mattered too much to his head coach, or his teammates who reveled in the Hornets first victory in the series since 1993.

“I’m pleased we got through the process with the victory,” said Delaware State head coach and Florida native Al Lavan who had the support of over two-dozen family and friends in the stands.

It was only fitting the lone touchdown of the first half came on the defensive side of the ball after both teams played kickball for the better part of the first half. When Gaertner was not hitting one of his four field goals, both teams were trading punts.

Sammy Doughty took a Winton fumble 51 yards for a touchdown to breathe life into a listless crowd with 4: 33 remaining in the first half. Wesley Taylor’s extra point cut the Hornet lead to 12-7.

FAMU cut the deficit to two points heading into halftime with a 30 -yard field goal by Taylor to end the first half.

Starting the second half with the same momentum the first was finished, the Rattlers unleashed Rashard Pompey whose 53-yard touchdown three minutes into the third quarter. Pompey’s run not only propelled FAMU to a 17-12 lead, but also placed Pompey past Frank Middleton into seventh place all-time with 2,024 rushing yards.

For all the success FAMU had running the ball in the second half, its passing game stumbled. Well-timed blitzed from preseason All-Everything safety Sam Smith kept the Rattlers off the scoreboard following Pompey’s breakthrough.

A two-yard Rodney Roy touchdown with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter gave Delaware State a 21-17 lead after a blocked punt brought the Hornets within three points.

“We have to work on our timing in practice. We have to get up front straight before we can do anything,” said wide receiver Roosevelt Kiser. “We (as an offense) have a lot of work to do.

contact Will Brown at thefamuansports@hotmail.com.