Rattlers open strong, 34-10

After a convincing performance against conference opponent Delaware State University, Florida A&M University’s Rattlers looked to continue their hot start to the 2009 season with a victory against independent opponent Winston-Salem State University.

Last season, FAMU was able to shut out the Rams 23-0.  True to form, the Rattlers were able to win back-to-back games against WSSU, this time besting the Rams 34-10.

After struggling to find the end zone against Del. State, senior cornerback and return man Leroy Vann was able to return two kicks for touchdown runs of 95 and 80 yards, accounting for 12 points in FAMU’s 24-point margin for victory.

The game against Winston Salem was nationally televised on ESPNU as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Game of the Week.  The scope of the game did not affect the players on the team, nor did the short week following the victory at Del. State.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said senior quarterback Curtis Pulley when asked about the circumstances surrounding the game.

Pulley completed 17 of 21 passes for 209 yards for the Rattlers, and helped to keep the team on top throughout the game.  The Rattlers were able to open a 21-3 lead in the third quarter following Vann’s two touchdowns, and never trailed once.

The MEAC game of the week also marked the debut for freshman running back Eddie Rocker.  Following injuries to the starting three running backs, Rocker was thrust into his first game on the national stage. 

Rocker rushed for 30 yards on 12 carries.

After the victory at Del. State, Coach Joe Taylor commented on a certain “lack of focus” on the blocking end, which accounted for holding calls and a total of 10 penalties for 98. 

“Each time there’s a penalty, there’s a loss of yardage, and it kills drives.  You need the first downs to keep possession time going,” Taylor said.

Against WSSU, FAMU committed eight penalties for 68 yards.  Although the yardage is less than in the Del. State game, an average of nine penalties per game is a high one.  According to ESPN, the average amount of penalties for a winning team (one with a winning percent over .500) for 2008 was between four to six penalties per game.

According to Taylor, teams typically show the most improvement between the first and second games of the season.  FAMU’s defeat of Winston Salem marks the improvement in offense, defense and special teams, but the amount of penalties per game still shows that there are improvements to be made.