With thousands gathered on the West side of Bragg Stadium and hundreds on the East side, coach Joe Taylor and his staff took the team through an uncommonly formatted scrimmage that allowed the tracking of defensive progress.
The game started a little slow. There were several factors that played into that. First, the offensive line was missing Steve Robinson and Jarien Moreland, who were both sitting with shoulder injuries. Second, and probably more importantly, the Rattler offense was adjusting to audibles from the quarterback, which had not been implemented during Taylor's tenure at FAMU.
"For the first time since I've been at FAMU, we're able to do some audibles. Damien (Fleming) brings that to the table. He's a sharp kid and he understands secondaries and he audibled his team out of some bad plays because of his leadership," Taylor said.
One thing Taylor has emphasized has been that having two capable quarterbacks is a must. "In order to get on Noah's Ark, you had to have two," Taylor says. The second quarterback is Tyler Bass. Bass had an impressive outing in the Orange and Green Game.
Fleming passed for 271 yards on 20-25 passing, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Bass passed for 128 yards on 16-29 passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. Both quarterbacks showed the agility to buy time with their legs.
The first quarter would progress with no scoring. In the second quarter, Bass hit Felix Ademson on a 20-yard touchdown pass. New kicker, Chase Varnador, nailed the extra point to make it 7-0. That would be the score going into halftime.
Defensively, the Rattlers scored on turnovers, three-and-outs and red zone stops. The defense racked up nine points in the first half and were actually leading 9-7 going into the half.
During the halftime ceremonies, Taylor and FAMU director of athletics, Derek Horne, honored the FAMU Student Government Association, the FAMU Student Senate and the Office of Student Activities for their purchase of new uniforms for the football team. Through the student senate process, the uniforms were voted upon and voted in favor of. The result is the purchase of two sets of uniforms for the team.
The second half would see the opening up of the Rattlers' offense. Fleming said, "At halftime, coach wanted to see us pass the ball around a little bit and once we got it going, we got into a groove," he said. With :55 remaining in the third quarter, Fleming hit a streaking Lenworth Lennon on a 55-yard pass for touchdown.
In the final period, Varnador would connect on a 43-yard field goal, with 10:04 remaining in the game. With nine seconds left, Fleming would hit Travis Harvey on an endzone corner route, which was good for a 34-yard touchdown. Varnador's kick would be good, making the score 26-18.
On the ensuing play, James Owens returned the kickoff 99 yards for a score. Varnador would make the PAT for the final 33-18 score in favor of the orange (offensive) squad.
The defense was led by linebacker William Small who finished with 11 tackles (nine solos/two assists. Brandon Hepburn and Padric Scott finished with eight tackles each. Scott would also card five sacks and Hepburn would snare an interception.
Taylor was not at all surprised to see the defense ahead of the offense. "I thought they (defense) played with a lot more intensity. They were flying around, they were hitting, and you want to come out of the Spring with your defense just a little bit ahead. I don't know about the pass coverage at the end, but defensively you want to be flying around like we were today," he said.
The new receiving corps has filled the void left by the expiration of eligibility of Kevin Elliott and Brian Tymes. Lennon, who was certainly a playmaker last season, led the crew with eight catches for 103 yards. Travis Harvey finished with 77 yards, Anthony Williams finished with 62 and Felix finished with 55. Taylor was pleasantly surprised by the production of the receivers. "Anthony (Ray) has been the real surprise of the camp. Last year, he was strictly a scout teamer and he always helped prepare our team for the opponents. To see him come out and have a good game shows his confidence. He's a very confident guy and certainly he's going to be an able guy without the emotion. Last year, a few times we made plays and let our emotions get in the way and it created flags. These kids play with a lot more composure and they run real disciplined routes. These guys will step up and probably take over for where those guys left off," Taylor said.
The Rattlers will complete Spring drills with two days of practice this coming week. Taylor, and staff will break down the film and begin preparing for the 2012 football season. "We have two days of practice remaining. We'll look at the film and break down TSU. We will have our reserves to run some of TSU's plays so we'll have a chance to look at them so we'll have all summer to kind of digest what they do," Taylor said.