N.C. Central solid challenge for Rattlers
Special to the Outlook
SAVANNAH, Ga. – FAMU’s football team couldn’t have had a better primer before returning to Bragg Stadium on Thursday night, considering the assignment.
The Rattlers will face defending MEAC champion North Carolina Central (2-1, 1-0 MEAC). The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU, beginning 7:30 p.m.
In what amounted to a tune up against the hottest team in the league, a stirring defensive stand in the shadow of their end zone lifted the Rattlers past Savannah State 20-14. It was the MEAC opener for both teams this past Saturday at Ted A. Wright Stadium.
FAMU improved to 2-2 (1-0 MEAC) with the win, their first in a conference opener since 2012. Savannah State fell to 0-3, 0-1.
FAMU stymied SSU run game as the Tigers had no time outs with 13 seconds left in the game.
Both teams gave up an interception in the opening quarter, with FAMU’s Elijah Richardson picking off a Savannah State aerial, only to have Ryan Stanley toss an interception two plays later.
The Tigers converted the miscue into a 7-0 lead, on D’Vonn Gibbons’ five-yard run, which capped an eight-play, 43 yard drive with 6:10 left. FAMU answered with a 75-yard scoring drive in seven plays.
The Rattlers dodged a bullet early in the second quater, when a high snap on a punt set the Tigers up on the FAMU 31-yard line. But the FAMU defense forced the Tigers to punt from midfield.
Stanley then directed a 75-yard march, ending with a 15-yard strike to Chad Hunter for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 9:11 left in the half.
FAMU’s defense stepped up the heat in the period, recording a pair of sacks, while limiting the Tigers to just 26 yards of offense on 10 plays.
RB Devin Bowers rushed for 68 yards on 14 carries in the opening half, while Stanley was an efficient eight of 11 passing, for 113 yards and two TDs.
FAMU opened the second half with the ball, moving to the SSU 40 before their drive stalled. Punter Chris Faddoul pinned the Tigers on their own 10-yartd line.
The Tigers managed five yards before having the punt back to FAMU, which started their next drive from their own 34 yard line, two solid defensive plays led to the Rattler drive stalling, leading to a Faddoul punt.
Starting from their own 31, the Tigers offense managed eight yards before punting back to FAMU, which struggled to mount a ground attack against the Tigers defense. Stanley’s third down pass for 25 yards to Chaviss Murphy was just enough for a first down at the FAMU 47.
However a holding penalty and an incomplete pass, stalled the Rattlers scoring bid, forcing a punt which landed at the Tigers two-yard line.
The Tigers drove 99 yards in 12 plays, capped by D’Vonn Gibbons’ 41-yard sprint around right end for a 14-13 score with 11:57 left in the fourth quarter. After three tries, Giovanni Lugo booted the PAT to tie the count at 14-14.
FAMU responded with a 12-play, 91-yard drive, capped by Tevin Spells, who punched it in from seven yards with 6:11 left. But Khalil Clark’s PAT kick was wide left, leaving the Rattlers clinging to a 20-14 edge.
On the ensuing possession, Savannah drove to the FAMU 41, where the two squads exchanged five yard penalties, driving into the red zone with under 40 seconds left.
SSU ran a pair of running plays, with QB Gibbons recovering his own fumble at the FAMU four, then after an exchnge of timeouts, two Savannah State passes were batted away on third and fourth down.
FAMU took possession and ran a kneel down play to end the game.