Fans Eager to See Rattlers’ First Home Game at Bragg Stadium

Running back Devondrick Nealy picks up some yards for the Rattlers against South Carolina State. Photos by Vaughn Wilson/FAMU athletics

Running back Devondrick Nealy picks up some yards for the Rattlers against South Carolina State.
Photos by Vaughn Wilson/FAMU athletics






By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Finally the road woes will end Saturday for the FAMU football team, which dropped its first three games and have given up more than 100 points in the process.

But not even a losing record and the battering their football team has been taking early in the season could stop supporters of the Rattlers from feeling good about seeing their team coming home. FAMU faces a 2-1 Tennessee State University team at Bragg Stadium as they continue one of the longest running rivalries in black college football.

“Everyone plays better at home so we are looking forward to them playing at home and hopefully they’ll be able to pull out their first victory of the season,” said Eddie Jackson, who heads up the 220 Quarterback Club, a support group for the Rattlers. “Playing at home is always the preferred thing. I think we are going to do well.”

The matchup with Tennessee State goes back to the years of Jake Gaither and John Merritt, two legendary coaches in HBCU football. The rivalry is so strong that it was once being considered for a classic in Tallahassee between the two teams.

While FAMU has suffered devastating losses to USF, Samford and South Carolina State, a win over TSU would be somewhat of a statement, considering that they have historically been a power in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“This would change the whole season around to beat Tennessee State on Saturday,” Jackson said. “Basically we are looking for stability and I think a win would be a good step in that direction.”

In their last outing, the Rattlers fell 36-0 to the Bulldogs. It was the first shutout win for SCSU over the Rattlers since a 19-0 victory in 2010 in Tallahassee.

The Sept. 17th nationally-televised game was a showcase for the Bulldogs, especially on the ground where they put up 454 yards on the way to finishing with 625 yards of total offense. SCSU’s freshman quarterback Caleb York also torched the Rattlers in the air, connecting on 18 of 37 attempts for 230 yards.

FAMU missed a chance to snap the shutout in the fourth quarter when Colby Blanton couldn’t connect on a 37 yard field goal late in the game. FAMU’s starter Carson Royal was 12 of 31 for 142 yards in his first complete game.

In TSU, FAMU will be facing a team that’s coming off a 48-13 loss to Jacksonville State in its OVC opener last weekend. They have wins over Alabama State and Jackson State.
Stopping the Tigers will take every bit of help the 12th man in the stands could offer. Tommy Mitchell, president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association, is optimistic that fan support could help change the Rattlers’ fate.

Historically, FAMU has drawn some of biggest crowds in its first home games, especially when the opponent is TSU. The last time the two teams played at Bragg 14,237 fans showed up.

Mitchell said he expects the trend to continue, especially with the Marching 100 band in attendance.

“Let me tell you something,” he said. “I’m from Tallahassee, I played in the Marching 100 and I go to the games. I’m still excited about the Marching 100. Thursday night (at SCSU) they showed out.”