By Florida A&M Sports Information
DOVER,Del. (Sept.23) – Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If” was personified by FAMU sophomore quarterback Damien Fleming’s calm in the waning minutes of the FAMU vs. Delaware State MEAC showdown on Saturday. In an offense-dominated game, the Rattlers held a two point lead going late into the game and ended up starting their final possession with 6:33 remaining. Fleming would lead the offense to five first downs, allowing the Rattlers to run out the clock and preserve the victory for the Rattlers. Along the way, DSU used three timeouts during the drive trying to position themselves to get the ball back.
For the fans of both teams, it was an exciting game. Football fans in general love offense. FAMU finished with 519 total yards, while DSU finished with 341. Fleming threw for 399 yards, his most as the Rattler signal caller. DSU completed 15-of-21 passes, while FAMU completed 31-of-38.
By all accounts, the teams were going toe-to-toe the entire game. But, it came down to a possible career-defining drive. Fleming took the FAMU offense from deep its own territory, the 16 yard line to be exact, and orchestrated a drive of major league proportions. The charge from the FAMU sidelines was to control the clock and not turn the ball over.
“We told them to protect the football. We went for the short stuff. The goal was not for them to score more unless it came within the natural flow of the concept. The goal was for them not to come off the field before the end of the game. I can’t say enough how proud of the play calling by offensive coordinator Lawrence Kershaw and the execution by all of the players,” head coach Joe Taylor said.
On the first play of the drive, Fleming hit senior wide receiver Travis Harvey on a sideline pass for seven yards. That would be the only play of the drive where the Rattlers would end the play out of bounds. Running backs Eddie Rocker and James Owens were systematic in getting as many yards as they could on the stretch plays, but getting down or turning upfield before they went out of bounds. It was a display in maturity on the part of the FAMU offense.
Kershaw mixed up the plays, using short passes to the wide receivers and strategically-placed runs to keep the DSU defense off balance. In the final drive Fleming completed four passes to Harvey and two to Lenworth Lennon. Eddie Rocker rushed four times and James Owens rushed three times in the drive. With Fleming rushing once himself, that made eight rushes, with not one ending up out-of-bounds, effectively stopping the clock.
In the end, the Rattler would end up atop the MEAC at 2-0. The performance could be critical in what is sure to be a very tight conference race. “That to me was the ultimate in game management. Damien waited out the play clock until the final moments like professional. The running backs did an awesome job of staying inbounds. What we witnessed was a very knowledgeable offense, who had been drilled in that particular situation an performed as a knowledgeable unit,” Taylor said.
Taylor and staff spent Sunday morning grading the film from Saturday’s game. Looking at it in review, the drive was just as impressive as it was live in Dover. One of the big differences in the team this year and last is the receivers. FAMU had several dropped passes last season, which killed important drives. This season, they have stepped up and become a viable weapon for the offense. What was once considered the unknown going into the season, has become a strength. Travis Harvey, Lenworth Lennon, Admenson Felix, and DeWayne Harvey have stepped in at wide receiver and got the job done. That’s not to shabby, considering both of the starting wide receivers from last season are on NFL rosters. Kevin Elliott is on the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Brian Tyms is on the practice roster with the Miami Dolphins.
Taylor concluded, “Nobody goes in with a plan of 75-percent passing and 25-percent running. We’re using speed in space and make our opponents have to tackle us. It’s a part of the evolution of football. The defense was better in the second half, but we’re looking for improved tackling from them. In general, at the conclusion of the first quarter of the season, we feel we have all the tools, we’ll just work to fine tune them and take our games one at a time.”