TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Oct. 6) – The resurgent Florida A&M Rattler Football scored its’ first stout in 18 years here Saturday at Bragg Memorial Stadium, defeating Norfolk (Va.) State, 17-0 during Homecoming festivities on the FAMU campus.
Saturday’s shutout was the first for Florida A&M (4-2, 3-0 in MEAC), since a 43-0 road whitewash of the Howard University Bison on September 30, 2000.
The victory was the third straight for the Rattlers, their longest win string since a four-game winning streak in 2011, while the three conference wins represent FAMU’s best start (3-0) in league play since a similar opening stretch in 2009.
Saturday’s victory was also the fourth of the year for FAMU, which last posted four victories in a season in 2016 (4-7).
FAMU broke the scoring ice midway through the second quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Yahia Aly, staking the Rattlers to a 3-0 lead with 7:30 left in the half.
The visiting Spartans (3-2, 1-1 MEAC) outgained the Rattlers, 291 to 240 in total yards Saturday, but like an ace pitcher, the FAMU Defense continually bailed out the team with defensive stops.
None was bigger than on Norfolks’ second possession in the third period, where they drove from their 33 to the FAMU one-yard line, before offensive miscues and crucial penalties, left the Spartans punting to FAMU.
Leading 3-0 heading into the fourth period, the Rattlers salted away the game in the final stanza on Ryan Stanley’s 13-yard pass to Chad Hunter, who sprinted into the end zone after the catch for a 10-0n FAMU lead with 9:59 left in the game.
If that score allowed the 26,045 partisan fans a chance to breathe easier after watching the Rattlers cling to a slim lead, it was the clincher by the electric halfback Bishop Bonnett, who raced in from 14 yards out with 2:34 left to put the game out of reach at 17-0.
FAMU’s defense dug deep and came up with one final stand to preserve the shutout, turning the ball over to the offense, which ran out the remaining time from victory formation.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Saturday’s announced crowd of 26,045 is sure to boost the Rattlers’ attendance numbers, which ranked them in the Top Five nationally headed into the weekend…. The aforementioned Mr. Bonnett led FAMU in both rushing (80 yards on 12 carries, one TD), and receiving, making four catches for 10 yards, while Chad Hunter finished with three catches for 51 yards and one TD… Junior QB Ryan Stanley was a bit off on Saturday, passing for just 149 yards on 15 completions (27 attempts), with one score and one interception…. Speaking of interceptions, the Rattler defense killed three drives with interceptions, as seniors Orlando McKinley and Antonio Miller, along with freshman Herman Jackson each had a pick…. Miller and linebacker Elijah Richardson finished tied for the club lead in tackles with 10 total stops, with Miller adding an interception and a tackle for loss.
WHAT’S NEXT: The first MEAC Showcase Showdown of 2018 will take place, as first place FAMU (3-0) will travel to Greensboro, N.C., to face defending Black College National Champion and MEAC winner North Carolina A&T (5-1, 2-0 MEAC) in a battle of the last conference unbeaten teams, next Saturday at Aggie Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and the game will air live nationally on ESPN3.