Next defensive test for FAMU will come from S.C. State

Sophomore running back Terrell Jennings scores on a 10-yard run for the Rattlers.
Photo by Don Hayes

Special to the Outlook

If there were any questions about how ready the FAMU defense would be when the Rattlers play South Carolina State on Saturday, the answer could be in the outcome of last weekend’s game.

When the Rattlers and Bulldogs meet on Saturday at Bragg Stadium, it will mark the revival of a rivalry that goes back more than two decades when both teams played in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. 

FAMU improved to 1-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference by beating Alabama State 28-0 at Bragg Stadium last Saturday night. The shutout was the Rattlers’ first time blanking an opponent this season and the first since beating Norfolk State since 17-0 in 2018.

“It’s a huge win whenever you can shut a team out,” said head coach Willie Simmons. “We came fresh out the gate with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”

This Saturday FAMU will be going up against a South Carolina State team that’s coming off a 42-35 victory over Bethune-Cookman University for its first win of the season. FAMU goes into the game with a 2-2 record, while the Bulldogs are 1-3.

The record isn’t a true indication of the talent on the S.C. State team. Take for example Donte Anthony and Kendrel Flowers who ran for two touchdowns that helped the Bulldogs to build an early lead.

The Bulldogs were on top 42-7 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats stormed back. B-CU, which also joined the SWAC this past summer, is 0-5.

One of the main weapons that the Rattlers will have to stop is Kahlil Overtin, who carried the ball eight times for 131 against the Wildcats. Seeing how the Rattlers handled Alabama State could be a prelude of what to expect from the Rattlers defense.

“Defensively, we played lights out, and offensively we did what we needed to,” Simmons said.

The Rattlers opened the game up with a 6 play, 77-yard drive that culminated with tight end Kamari Young in the end zone. After quarterback Rasean McKay’s perfect delivery of the ball to Young, he shook off an attempted tackle on the way for the score. 

A six-yard sweep by receiver Xavier Smith capped a nine-play, 42-yard drive. That was followed by Terrell Jennings’ 10-yard run at the end of a seven-play drive that covered 66 yards.

The Rattlers continued to have their way with the Hornets and when it was over the defense allowed only 197 yards. The unit also recorded four sacks and an interception.

While this Saturday’s game is a non-conference matchup, expectations will be high for the FAMU defense to deliver again. The last time they met S.C. State in 2019, FAMU scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to hold off a furious 21-point rally by the Bulldogs in the final 15 minutes of play. FAMU won that meeting 42-38.

Prior to that, FAMU had lost eight of the 10 meetings involving both teams, starting in 2010. The Bulldogs also held the Rattlers scoreless in 2015.

Against the Hornets last weekend, the defense allowed only 24-yards, the lowest in a half since 2008 against Winston-Salem State. Isaiah Land added two sacks in the first half set a career-high for sacks in a half. Derrick Mayweather also recorded a sack of Ryan Nettles in the second half. Land later added his third sack on the day, a first by a Rattler this season.

The Rattlers’ lone interception was recorded by Kortney Cox, his first as a college player. FAMU scored on the ensuring play when Bishop Bonnett rushed nine yards for a touchdown that gave the Rattlers a 28-0 lead.