The FAMU Rattlers aren’t taken too seriously in the MEAC conference, that’s usually the case when you’re scheduled as another school’s homecoming. The Rattlers came into this game fresh of their first win of the season and made it known that they intended on building that win into a streak. They accomplished their goal with a 31-28 victory over the Howard Bison here in D.C. The Rattlers will leave the nation’s capital with a two game win streak( 2-5, 2-1 MEAC) and momentum as they head into their next game against North Carolina A&T. The score of today’s game doesn’t do the Rattlers justice, it was very close to a dominant win.
Howard (1-7, 0-5 MEAC) had every intention of getting a win over the Rattlers so they could break their streak, the Bison had suffered four consecutive defeats after their victory over Morehouse in the Nation’s Football Classic. The Bison got off to great start as Tavius Brown returned the opening kickoff to get the party started early at Homecoming. The Rattlers didn’t shy away from the moment as they drove the ball down field on the ensuing possession to tie the game at seven.
From that point on it was all about the FAMU Rattlers, they owned the second quarter. Howard was unable to get anything going on the offensive end. Much of which was due to the outstanding play from the FAMU defensive line, they never allowed the Bison’s offensive line to generate much of a push. They routinely took away Greg McGhee’s receiving options and kept contain so as to not let him hurt them with his legs. That was enough to keep the Bison offense off track, during that stretch the Rattlers had success moving the ball. They did so with quick passes, often screens or slants. It wasn’t an air raid though, FAMU made sure they kept pounding the football on the ground to soften up that Bison defense and keep them honest. Damien Fleming (QB)did a great job extending plays and taking advantage of situations when his wideouts were covered and taking off downfield for big yardage. That type of heads up football went a long way into giving the Rattlers a 24-7 lead at the half.
The third quarter went by in a flash, both teams scored a touchdown but the clock kept moving. After giving up a score, both defenses seemed to settle down a bit. There was a ton of punting in the period, the biggest moment of the quarter may have been when McGhee went down with an injury. For an offense that was already stalling, that wasn’t great news.
The final period was dominated by Howard for a huge stretch, McGhee came back into the game and almost led his team to a comeback. For a large chunk of the game, the Bison skill players were going down far too easily. The Bison offense (a pro-style offense) is predicated off of quick passes that find players in space, if players are unable to get yards after catch, then the offense won’t move.
Back to the fourth quarter, McGhee was starting to gouge the Rattlers defense with his legs and arm. His receivers started to make plays after the catch, resulting in big yardage and touchdowns. Howard scored two touchdowns in the period, closing the gap to three points at 31-28. FAMU was out of timeouts and Howard still had two, all the Bison had to do was stop them from getting a first down.
Not only did the Rattlers get one first down, but they gained three on the game-ending drive. Their huge offensive line was giving Gerald Hearns more than ample room to move the chains down after down. He ran hard and made sure to stay in bounds, letting the seconds tick off the clock until it was time to take the best formation in football: Victory Formation. FAMU would kneel the ball twice to kill the remaining time in the game, it was a great win for the Rattlers.
Howard may have burned their timeouts a little too early, but it wouldn’t have mattered after giving up those three critical first downs to Hearns and company. The Bison have a bye week before facing Delaware State at home on November 1st. The Rattlers will be playing North Carolina A&T this upcoming weekend.