Putting the loss against the University of Miami Hurricanes behind them, the Rattlers look now to reestablish dominance in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in Saturday’s game at the South Carolina State Bulldogs in the MEAC Game of the Week.
The Bulldogs, who are 4-1, are the current MEAC champions, tied for first with Florida A&M University and Morgan State University. The Bulldog’s sole loss came from a trip to a Football Bowl Subdivision school, the University of South Carolina.
“This is, there’s no other way to put it, a pivotal game,” said Coach Joe Taylor.
Both teams are undefeated in conference play, effectively giving first place to the winner of this competition.
“Going into the season, both teams were predicted one and two in terms of finish,” Taylor said. “The team that wins this game will certainly have an inside shot at winning the conference.”
Following the loss to the Hurricanes, FAMU’s defensive ranking dropped to sixth overall, behind S.C. State’s No. 2 ranked defense. The defense made during the loss Hurricanes, recording their first two interceptions of the season.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing University of Miami or South Carolina State,” junior defensive back Qier Hall said. “We just compete, like Coach [Earl] Holmes always says, we should be fine.”
Continued success on the defensive end will give the Rattlers the edge in a match up where both teams are strong offensively. Combined, both teams average 706.4 yards per game.
The Rattlers defense allows only 290 yards per game, while S.C State averages 338 yards per game. The Rattlers and the Bulldogs have the No. 2 and 3 rushing attack respectively, and a key to stopping the Bulldogs is stopping running back William Ford, who’s currently averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
“We know that we’re capable and that success is going to come,” said senior linebacker Bryan Parker. “We need to continue to do our job, not try to do too much. We’re going to be patient and be ready to play.”
The Bulldogs are also unpredictable, with a propensity for trick plays and a highly mobile offense.
“We’ll watch film, know their tendencies, know what they like to do,” said Parker. “We’ll just get out there, line up and play. They’re a pretty good team, but as long as we go through our reads there should be no reason why we won’t dominate.”
Last season, the Rattlers fell short against the Bulldogs 21-28, giving them their second loss in conference play. All-time, FAMU is 32-18-3 against the Bulldogs, however the Rattlers have not beaten the Bulldogs since 2001.
The Rattlers are playing on a national stage again with the game being televised on ESPNU. The game will come on a delay, but this marks the third time this season the Rattlers will be showcased on an ESPN venue.
The game will also be cast live on ESPN360 for the second time in a row following the Miami game.