By Florida A&M Sports Information
TALLAHASSEE, FL (Oct.13) – The FAMU Rattlers (3-4, 3-1 MEAC) dominated the Savannah State Tigers (0-6, 0-4 MEAC), allowing just a single field goal, as they romped to 612 yards of total offense, on their way to a 44-3 victory over SSU tonight at Bragg Memorial Stadium on the campus of Florida A&M University.
Head coach Joe Taylor was pleased with the Rattlers’ performance. “You could tell their bodies were rested and recovered and I thought we went out and showed a lot of energy and had some fun. It’s our third conference win, which is important for us because as you look around the conference today there are only two teams left that are unbeaten in conference play and both of them are on our schedule. Our destiny is still within our own hands, which is why it was important to go out and play the way we did,” Taylor said.
The Rattlers got on he board first on a 27-yard field goal by Chase Varnadore, with 12:25 remaining int he first quarter. Varnadore would add another field goal at the 8:06 mark of the first quarter. The 21-yard field goal gave the Rattlers a 6-0 lead.
Savannah State would add a field goal of their own, making the score 6-3, with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter. That would conclude the scoring for the Tigers as the Rattlers rattled off 38 unanswered points for the final score.
Eddie Rocker had a career day, gaining 171 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. Rocker’s TD ended a drought that dated back to last year’s Savannah State game. This is the third time in his career at FAMU, where he has rushed for 100 or more yards in a game. Last season, Rocker rushed for 128 yards against North Carolina Central on November 12, 2011 and rushed for 107 on 12 carries with a TD against North Carolina A&T on November 5, 2011.
Damien Fleming showed his fleet feet, gaining 53 yards on the ground. James Owens gained 40, Tyler Bass gained 38 and Stanley Jordan got playing time, gaining 21 yards.
FAMU wide receiver Lenworth Lennon gained 134 yards on six receptions, including a 57-yard touchdown reception from Fleming that would be the final score of the evening. The touchdown came as fans encouraged Fleming to run, as they were about 15 yards of free terrain in front of him, but he chose to throw the strike to Lennon. “I saw a lot of green grass in front of me, but I saw Lenworth (Lennon) inching back toward me, so I gave him the ‘go’ sign to go deeper. He got behind the defense and I threw it up and he made a play for me,” Fleming said.
Owens would score on a 15-yard run to close out the first quarter at 13-3 following the Varnadore kick. Varnadore would add his third and final field goal in the second quarter, with a 38-yarder that split the uprights.
Fleming found tight end Michael Ethridge in the back of the end zone for the Rattlers’ only touchdown of the second quarter, resulting in a 23-10 halftime score. Fleming led the Rattler arsenal attack as he passed for 242 yards, completing 15 passes in 22 attempts with two TDs. This marked Fleming’s 14th consecutive game with a touchdown pass.
Savannah State was led by Sheldon Barnes as he rushed for a team-high 58 yards on 11 carries. SSU quarterback Antonio Bostick finished the contest for the Tigers with 161 yards passing, completing nine passes in 21 attempts with one interception. Simon Heyward led the SSSU’s receivers with 103 yards on four catches.
Edward Baety led the SSU as he finished with nine tackles with seven of them being solos, followec by Gregory Brown, also with nine tackles with six of them being solos.
The Rattlers scored two touchdown in the third quarter, including Rocker’s 19-yard scamper. Fleming scrambled for a TD on a seven-yard run.
Brandon Denmark and Devan Roberts led the Rattlers with six tackles each. Terry Johnson would pick off his third interception of the year.
The Rattlers return to action in the thick of things in the MEAC. After several upsets on the day, the Rattlers still have a shot at the MEAC title. “The bottom line is as we continue to move down the schedule, we always looked at the right side (conference record). The left side (overall record) is the pessimistic side, and the right side is the optimistic side. We knew that one loss in the conference was not going to eliminate us. In athletics you just learn that. You just fight to the bitter end,” Taylor concluded.
With the FAMU win over Savannah State, ties Joe Taylor with former Southern University Coach Arnett “Ace”Mumford with 233 career wins. Taylor is now two wins shy of tying former Tennessee State’s John “Big John” Merritt with 235 career wins among HBCU Football Coaches.
The Rattlers will face the South Carolina State Bulldogs on Oct.20, in Bragg memorial Stadium in the 4th Annual Prince Hall Shriners FOundation Diabetes Classic, which will be broadcast on ESPNU.