Rattlers look to Arkansas after opening season with victory over Texas Southern
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
FAMU’s football players couldn’t have gotten a bigger shot of confidence than they did winning their home opener in front a crowd of 15,401 at Bragg Stadium.
While knocking off Texas Southern University 29-7 this past Saturday, the Rattlers looked like a team that should be more competitive this season than the one that went 4-7 last year.
The matchup with Arkansas is a game that the Rattlers will play for the money –about half a million dollars – but they weren’t sounding like underdogs. Every man who faced the media after their win was brimming with confidence.
“No matter who we go up against,” said quarterback Ryan Stanley, “football is football.”
Whether the Rattlers have improved enough to show the same competitiveness they did against the Tigers when they face Arkansas tonight is still a huge question. But at least they believe that they can ride the momentum from the program’s first opening day win in 16 years.
“Today confirmed it,” said running back Devin Bowers. “We can do it. It gives us extreme confidence.”
So here’s why.
The Rattlers ran 80 plays, racking up 415 yards to 202 for the Tigers. The offensive line kept quarterback Ryan Stanley upright all afternoon, giving him enough time to complete 19 of 32 pass attempts for 217 yards. Stanley also rushed for 21 yards, nine of them for FAMU’s first touchdown in the opening quarter.
If Stanley left any questions after taking over the offense last season he answered that. Backup quarterback Vincent Jefferies also played sporadically, spelling Stanley one of those times after the starter took a big hit.
“We’ve got confidence in him,” said coach Alex Wood. “He did well today and I thought Vince came in and did real well. There are things we need to work on with both of them, but we will get that done.”
Jefferies, who completed one of five passes, wasn’t lost on Wood in his backup role. He also rushed 12 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of the Tigers’ reach with 10:22 left in the third quarter.
“He has earned it,” Wood said of Jefferies. “He brings some value to the game. He’s explosive as we’ve seen on the run for a touchdown.”
The Rattlers also displayed a defense that had been the talk of pre-season camp. The unit lived up to the hype, harassing TSU’s quarterback Jay Christophe and his three backups all afternoon.
Christophe, who is coming off a season-ending injury in his first game last season, was sacked three times. He was held to 10 of 21 for 29 yards passing.
The Rattlers’ defense didn’t give Christophe an opportunity to get settled. It was as if the unit couldn’t wait to get after a quarterback other than their own.
“We’ve been in camp for a whole month,” said cornerback Orlando McKinley. “We were just ready to stop hitting our players and hit someone else.”
And they were looking for a shutout, too. It eluded them when Christophe found Darvin Kidsey on an open route for a 30-yard catch with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Frankly, it was the only obvious blunder by the defense when the Tigers snapped the shutout.
“We wanted that so badly. We were on the sidelines going ‘goose egg, goose egg.’ ”