NORFOLK, Va. | It wasn’t pretty, but the Florida A&M University football team survived its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) opener on Saturday afternoon with a 30-28 victory over Norfolk State at William “Dick” Price Stadium.
Norfolk State (1-4 overall, 0-1 MEAC) took the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards in 11 plays as Kevin Johnson scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Spartans a 7-0 advantage with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Florida A&M (3-1, 1-0) answered the Spartan opening drive as the Rattlers went 75 yards in six plays to tie the game at 7.
FAMU running back Bishop Bonnett accounted for 35 yards and Ryan Stanley completed a third and 10 for a 40-yard touchdown strike as David Manigo caught the ball and carried three NSU players into the endzone with 8:09 left in the opening quarter.
The Spartans used a 13-play, 83-yard drive, capped by a Gerald Hulett 2-yard touchdown run to break the 7-7 tie and give Norfolk State a 14-7 lead with just under eight minutes left in the first half.
The Rattlers answered the NSU scoring driving with a 9-play, 75-yard drive as Terrell Jennings scored on a 6-yard run, tying the game at 14 with 4:18 remaining in the second.
After a defensive stop, Florida A&M got the ball at its own 39 and went 49 yards in 11 plays as Yahia Aly booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Rattlers their first lead of the afternoon, 17-14, with 18 seconds left in the first half.
The Rattlers got the ball to open the second half as the drive stalled at the NSU 34. Aly added to the FAMU lead with a 52-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 20-14 with 11:30 remaining in the third.
Back came the Spartans as Norfolk State drove 73 yards in eight plays, capped by a Johnson 36-yard touchdown run, giving NSU a slim 21-20 lead with 7:16 left.
Florida A&M answered the scoring drive with an 11-play, 56-yard drive as Aly booted his third field goal of the day, a 37-yarder – to give the Rattlers a 23-21 advantage with 1:33 remaining in the third.
FAMU finally got some distance late in the fourth quarter as Cortez Reid picked off NSU quarterback Juwan Carter and the Rattlers turned the interception into seven points.
On fourth down from the NSU 6, Jennings busted up the gut for the touchdown, which gave the Rattlers a 30-21 lead with 4:16 remaining.
Norfolk State cut the deficit to 30-28 after Carter found Anthony Williams for a 26-yard touchdown with 1:08 left.
The Spartans attempted an onsides kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds and the Rattlers were able to run out the clock.
The Rattlers benefited from three straight Yahia Aly field goals and took over at their own 39 with 14:01 remaining. Florida A&M was driving, but a costly unsportsmanlike penalty by Terrell Jennings pushed the ball from the NSU 1 to the Spartan 16. On the very next play, Stanley nearly found a diving Xavier Smith in the end zone, which forced a fourth down.
Aly was set for his fourth straight field goal, but it was a fake as Chris Faddoul’s pass was incomplete, turning the ball over to NSU.
The Spartans could not do much offensively as Juwan Carter’s pass was picked off by Cortez Reid to set the Rattlers up in scoring position.
The interception proved to be the difference as Jennings cashed in a fourth down run with a 6-yard touchdown to give the Rattlers a 30-21 lead with 4:36 left.
Inside the Numbers
> Florida A&M finished with 23 first downs
> The Rattlers amassed 431 total yards of offense
> Bishop Bonnett went over the century mark as he carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards
> Ryan Stanley went 27 of 37 passing for 293 yards and one touchdown
> Xavier Smith caught a career-high 12 passes for 98 yards
> David Manigo added four catches for 76 yards and one touchdowns
> Elijah Richardson led the way defensively with 10 total tackles, including four solo stops
> Terry Jefferson registered nine tackles, with three solo stops
> Norfolk State finished with 21 first downs
> The Spartans tallied 401 total yards, including 308 through the air
> Kevin Johnson rushed seven times for 53 yards and two scores
> Juwan Carter went 28 of 42 passing for 308 yards, with one touchdown and one interception
> Da’Kendall James caught six passes for 61 yards
> Tyre Givers-Wilson recorded 11 tackles, including five solo stops
> Brandon Savage and Nigel Chavis each added 10 tackles
News & Notes
> This was the 18th meeting between Florida A&M and Norfolk State
> FAMU improves to 13-3 all-time against NSU
> The Rattlers are 8-1 all-time in Norfolk, Va.
> Yahia Aly’s 52-yard field goal in the third quarter was the second-longest in school history. Chase Varnadore booted a 53-yard field goal against Morgan State in 2014
> Ryan Stanley now has 7,046 career passing yards and is now just 332 yards shy of FAMU record-holder Quinn Gray (7,378 yards)
> Ryan Stanley needs 13 touchdown passes to become the FAMU all-time leader
> Willie Simmons is now 2-0 all-time against Norfolk State and picked up his first win in the state of Virginia
> Willie Simmons picked up career victory No. 30 on Saturday against Norfolk State
> With the victory, Willie Simmons improved to 11-3 all-time in the month of September
> Elijah Richardson was named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy on Wednesday
Florida A&M returns home on Saturday, Oct. 5 with a homecoming matchup against North Carolina Central. Kickoff against the Eagles is set for 2 p.m. from Bragg Memorial Stadium and the game can be viewed live on ESPN3. NCCU traveled to Morgan State on Saturday.
The Rattlers won the 2018 contest in Durham, N.C., 55-14.
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