NORFOLK, Va. (Oct. 7) - The Florida A&M Rattler Football team fell victim to turnovers and penalties here Saturday afternoon, dropping a bitter 35-28 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference setback to the homestanding Norfolk State Spartans at Dick Price Stadium.
FAMU (2-4, 1-2 MEAC) outgained the home club in total yards, 485-243, but five turnovers (four lost fumbles, one interception), combined with 16 penalties for 145 yards, proved to be the seeds to the Rattlers demise.
Norfolk State (2-3, 2-0 MEAC) won their first series victory at home against FAMU Saturday, riding two fumble returns to edge the Rattlers, along with forcing the five fatal miscues which cost the visitors dearly.
The loss overshadowed a strong rushing performance by FAMU, which ran for a season high 250 ysrds, powered by Devin Bowers' 141 yards on 24 carries, and aided by Azende Rey, who ran for 86 yards on 11 carries.
Ryan Stanley, who a trio of TD passes, finished with 235 yards on 27 of 37 passes, with one interception. Marcus Williams led the Rattler receivers with eight grabs for 90 yards and a score, while Chad Hunter added six catches for 88 yards and a TD.
Linebackers Jibreel Hartly and Jakaris Wilson each had seven tackles to pace the FAMU Defense.
HOW IT UNFOLDED...
After their first two possessions ended in turnovers (sack fumble, interception), FAMU stayed mainly with the run in the third series, alternating Devin Bowers and Azende Rey to march 80 yards in 13 plays taking a 7-0 lead on Ryan Stanley's nine-yard strike to Brandon Norwood with 3:09 left in the first period.
The Rattler Defense held the Spartans scoreless in the first period despite the Spartans forcing two turnovers at or near midfield.
FAMU's Defense forced a pair of second quarter turnovers, but the Ratlers failed to capitalize on either.
In fact the second turnover - a fumble recovered by Derrick Mayweather - turned into a score the other way on the next snap, as Bishop Bonnett's fumble was recovered by Kyle Archie and returned 38 yards for the tying score.
The Rattlers' offensive struggles continued leading to another punt midway through the second period, and the Spartans drove 66 yards in nine plays, capping the march with a 24-yard TD strike from Juwan Carter to George Wahee with 3:34 left, putting Norfolk ahead, 14-7 with 3:34 left in the half.
But FAMU answered with a scoring match of their own before the half, covering 60 yards in 10 plays, with Stanley firing an 18-yard scoring strike to Marcus Williams with 38 seconds left.
FAMU outgained the Spartans, 206 to 99 in total yards, but their three turnovers and 89 yards (nine times) in penalties stymied a number of scoring drives.
Still, mercurial junior Devin Bowers sliced and diced the Spartan defense for 108 yards on 17 carries in the first half.
FAMU opened the second half by driving 65 yards with Tevin Spells plunging in from three yards out on fourth down and goal, vaulting the Rattlers ahead, 21-14 with 9:45 left in the third.
The Spartans staged a scoring march of their own after the enusing kickoff, driving 75 yards to close within one point, as 21-20, when Juwan Carter threw a 45-yard scoring strike to Marcus Taylor. But the PAT try failed, leaving FAMU ahead by one.
FAMU was driving into scoring range, reaching the six-yard line when Bowers fumbled and J.T. Wahee scooped up the pigskin and dashed 95 yards for the touchdown. The Spartans' two-point conversion was good and NSU went ahead, 28-21 with just over 10 minutes left.
But the Rattlers took advantage of two personal fouls on Norfolk State to move 74 yards to score, on a 25-yard pass from Stanley to Chad Hunter with 7:19 left. Khalil Clark's PAT was good and the game was tied at 28-28.
Norfolk State returned the kickoff 48 yards to the FAMU 43. However, the Rattler Defense stiffened, limiting the Spartans to three yards in three plays, before punting to the FAMU four-yard line.
The Rattlers next drive died at their 40-yard line when Marcus Williams fumbled a third and long pass from Stanley, setting the table for the Spartans.
Larry Bishop capped the 40-yard Spartan march with a two-yard blast with 56 seconds left, pushing them ahead, 35-28.
FAMU took possession at their own 23 yard line with 46 seconds left, but could not get past midfield, turning the ball over on downs.
The Spartans took over at the FAMU 45, snapping it once and kneeling to seal the win.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Rattlers will host North Carolina A&T for Homecoming next Saturday, October 14 at 3:00 p.m. in Bragg Memorial Stadium.