Football ranking and record on the line

Following back-to-back nationally televised games, the Rattlers look to continue their undefeated start against the Tennessee State Tigers in the 20th Atlanta Football Classic. 

The Rattlers will be putting their new top 25 ranking on the line as well as their undefeated record.

Florida A&M University has not seen a pause in huge games this season.  So far, FAMU has taken on conference rival Delaware State University, followed by a nationally televised competition against Winston Salem State University, followed by another nationally televised game against another conference rival in Howard University.

The big games continue, starting with the upcoming Classic, which is the first game in the three-game road trip.  The next three games have the potential to be the hardest in the Rattler schedule, with matchups against TSU, the University of Miami and reigning Mid Eastern Athletic Conference champions South Carolina State University.

“Each day we go out to practice there’s something we want to do to make ourselves individually better, which will make the team better.  We look forward to getting better, and that keeps us focused,” said Coach Joe Taylor.

Since 2003, the TSU-FAMU rivalry has been extremely heated, with the largest margin of victory in a game between these two only being only seven points.  The Atlanta Classic, played in the Georgia Dome, is one of the best stages for both teams to showcase their talents.

“To be a part of [the Classic] is just exciting; it’s great for recruiting.  It’s exciting not just from an athletic standpoint, but also for the student body period, as well as for the music department.  It’s just a win-win,” Taylor said.

For FAMU, the Classic is an opportunity to continue its hot start to the 2009 football season.  The offense is currently experiencing a level of balance unavailable to them earlier in the season with the return of junior running back Philip Sylvester.

“Overall, each week it’s important that you have a balance between the run and the pass.  Philip being back certainly helps with that,” Taylor said.

Currently, the offensive attack is almost perfectly balanced; with senior quarterback Curtis Pulley contributing 531 yards through the air and the team totaling for 613 yards on the ground.

The balance comes from all aspects of the team, including special teams. Senior kick return man Leroy Vann has found the end zone four times off punt returns this season, and will look to break the Division II record for punt return touchdowns in a single season this Saturday.

Special teams are also contributing in the form of field goals, with sophomore place kicker Trevor Scott finally hitting his stride.  Against Howard, Scott hit from 47 and 51 yards, breaking personal bests on both kicks.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve restored a lot of confidence in my teammates and fans, now that they know that I’m capable of hitting those types of field goals.  I’m just going to continue my hard work in practice,” Scott said.

The Classic will be the third big game for FAMU this season so far, with the Rattlers showing no signs of slowing down.  Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.