TAMPA, Fla (Sept.16) – Florida A&M couldn’t solve the offense of the Tennessee State as the Tigers defeated the Rattlers 24-13 in the inaugural FAMU Tampa Classic in front of over 17,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium. The defense, which had early indicators of being the strength of the Rattlers, gave up 514 yards to the Tigers who used a balanced attack to keep the team from honing in on a defensive solution.
The Rattlers had just 262 yards of total offense, their lowest FCS output of the year. After nearly a week of interrupted practice due to Hurricane Irma, which followed a bye week, the Rattlers did not pick up where they left off with an admirable performance against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Adding to the issues of the Rattlers was their performance on special teams. With blocked kicks and miscues, the Rattlers gave away momentum with out-of-sync efforts on special teams.
“I thought that our kids played hard, gave great effort. We valued and didn’t turn the ball over offensively. We didn’t make enough plays to get us in the end zone enough times to win the game when it’s all said and done,” head coach Alex Wood said.
TSU got on the board in the first quarter with a field goal with 3:29 remaining. The second quarter, the Rattlers took the lead on a Devin Bowers one-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked with an errant snap and hold. TSU would regain the lead for good with 1:55 remaining in the half on a 44-yard touchdown, which featured a spectacular run and catch by Steven Newbold. The gave TSU a 10-6 lead going into halftime.
With 3:41 remaining in the third quarter, Treon Harris hit Patrick Smith on a 2-yard pass to give the Tigers a 17-6 lead. TSU’s Seth Rowland capped the Tigers’ scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run with 9:16 remaining in the fourth. FAMU’s Marcus Williams scored on an 18-yard reception with :24 remaining. For the first time this season, FAMU redshirt freshman kicker Kalil Clark was put in the game and nailed the extra point to conclude the scoring with the 24-13 margin.
FAMU quarterback, Ryan Stanley, is looking to get the team back on track for the beginning of MEAC play. ‘We’re 0-0 in the conference and still have a long season ahead of us. I haven’t even seen them on film yet. We’ll come out and see what they do and go get that first conference win next week,” he said.
Bowers led the Rattlers on the ground with 34 yards rushing. Stanley followed with 12 yards. Brandon Norwood led the receivers with 76 yards on eight receptions. FAMU redshirt freshman, Chad Hunter, had 46 yards on two receptions.
FAMU punter Chris Faddoul averaged 43.5 yards per punt, placing four punts inside the 20-yard line. Orlando McKinley led the orange and green with 83 yards on kick returns.
The Tampa Classic was the first time FAMU has hosted a game in Tampa in 21 years in Tampa. The return of FAMU to Tampa Bay brought in 17,000 fans, just a week after devastation across the state. FAMU Athletics honored first responders at halftime of the game, for their efforts in rebuilding after hurricane Irma.
The Rattlers, after the extended layoff, will have two games in 12 days as they begin conference play in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 23 and return to Bragg Stadium on Thurs., Sept. 28 to take on the 2016 MEAC champion North Carolina Central Eagles on ESPNU.