As word spreads throughout the MEAC and perhaps the sports world that FAMU handled the Hampton University Pirates on Saturday and won handedly 31-14, many will see this as a game Hampton should have won. Some will wonder what happened to the Pirates while Rattler fans will view this as a potential moment in history where FAMU signifies that perhaps the losing ways are finally over.
When interviewed after the win, head coach Alex Wood was asked if the Rattlers are finally turning the corner. He is hesitant in saying yes to that though he seems to feel that the pieces needed to be a winner are finally falling in place. We may see Wood as not necessarily positive or enthusiastic, but I have come to realize that he is a pragmatist, one who is practical and full of candor. Just over the midway point of his second season and building a program almost from scratch, he maintains a higher standard than that which is imaginable for those Rattler fans who are ready to have a Pentecostal moment just at the thought of winning.
The juniors and seniors have been key in this small Rattler resurgence, yet quietly sprinkled among them are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores, who are starting to make a mark. Then, there are very talented players like transfer quarterback Vincent Jeffries and freshman quarterback Tahj Tolbert, freshman kicker Khalil Clark, and numerous other recent recruits, who have yet to take stage. They will all benefit from a 2017 Spring practice. It is when Coach Wood can take full advantage of the program with Spring practice, full practices before every game, and having everyone who has signed a letter of intent on the field to compete that he will feel more comfortable in saying the Rattler football program has turned the corner.
Still, there is reason to be excited about FAMU football and FAMU sports in general. For once, we are not relying on a single Messiah with coach in front of his name to come in and lead us to victory. Athletic Director Milton Overton is quietly, meticulously, and energetically organizing the Athletic Department as a Division 1 program. He is serious about giving the coaches the support they need to win with scholarships, the right number of assistant coaches, academic support, upgrade of facilities, and administrative accountability. He has already connected with the fan base. Showing the acumen of a MBA graduate he started by asking the fans what FAMU was doing well and could do better. Now FAMU Athletics is starting to do better with the support of Rattler fans in full gear.
So, while the Rattler Football program is not yet revived, revival is certainly underway.
Next Up: North Carolina A&T Aggies in Greensboro – Homecoming
This will be the third game in a row where the Rattlers are playing a homecoming opponent. In some ways A&T is a much more talented version of the Hampton Pirates and the Rattlers will have their hands full. A&T’s strength plays to FAMU’s defensive Achilles heel in the running game. Leading the running attack is Tarik Cohen. In the Aggies last game against the Howard Bison, Cohen reached a career mark of over 5,000 yards rushing. Behind a very successful offensive line he has run through, over, and around opponents. Showing great agility and speed, Cohen has been hard to bring down. He is also a good receiver and shows promise for making it in the NFL. At quarterback the Aggies are three deep. Able to pass, they most favor running, adding a deeper dimension to the running game. Ranked 14th in the FCS, the Aggies only loss has been to the Division 1 FBS Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. They also defeated Division 1 FBS Kent State earlier in the season. In their win against Kent State the Aggies showed a strong defensive front. To win, the Rattlers must use more of their play book, protect the quarterback, and give their best passing performance of the season.
Note: FAMU is currently tied with Hampton for fourth place in the MEAC.