There was only one band in the stands at the Atlanta Football Classic but on the field, Southern and Florida A&M put on a heck of a nail biting performance with the Jaguars prevailing over the Rattlers 21-14 on Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
FAMUs Damien Fleming and Southern’s Dray Joseph aired out the Dome with 35 attempts and two touchdowns.
Fleming put the Rattlers on the board first, lofting a 7 yard pass over the head of Jaguars DB Johnathan Mack into the hands of rangy receiver Travis Harvey.
Joseph put the Jags in striking distance just before the end of the half. Brandon Hepburn’s timely sack of Joseph on third and 1 forced the Jags into a lengthy fourth down situation. Interim Coach Odum reached into his bag of tricks setting up for the field goal before shifting into a shotgun with wide receiver Lee Doss behind center. Doss’ wobbly duck intended for tight end Rashaun Allen found a leaping FAMU DB Devan Roberts instead.
“We just didn’t execute,” said Southern Interim Head Coach Dawson Odums of the trick play. “We were having trouble getting points, having trouble moving the football. It was a little long of a field goal for our kicker and too close to punt. So we were thinking, hey with the time and the field position if we fake it right there we got a chance to get seven points and then come out in the second half and get the ball back and drive down and score and get another 7 points and hey turn this football game around.
What the halftime show lacked in the Marching 100s numbers, it made up for in star power. Hip Hop legend Doug E. Fresh, R&B legend Chaka Khan, local rapper Future, and throngs of dancers more than delivered the goods.
Southern opened the second half the same way it ended the first with an interception. FAMU DB Marvin Ross intercepted Joseph’s pass intended for wide receiver Michael Berry. In all fairness, Berry made no effort to make a play on the ball. A point Joseph appeared to address when the pair approached the bench.
Joseph drew the game even on the next offensive series with a 14 yard strike to running back Sylvester Nzekwe. The senior from Seattle beat FAMU linebacker Akil Blount underneath and out ran the pursuit into the endzone.
Fleming and Joseph each added a touchdown for their respective squad to keep the game tied. Fleming’s 51 yard bomb to Henry caught the Jags secondary sleeping on duty.
“They were playing more cover 2 than we anticipated,” said FAMU Head Coach Joe Taylor. “That was one of those times where we got over the top and it was a good throw and catch.”
The Jags answered on the ensuing drive, marching 65 yards for the tying score. Joseph hit his best friend Lee Doss with as close to a perfect pass as humanly possible. “We started off in trips and we motioned him over and I saw a guy follow him so I knew they were in man,” said Joseph. “I just threw the ball to the pylon like I’ve been taught to do and Doss made a heck of a catch.”
After both defenses held the respective opposition to 4 and out series, lightning struck. Strange things tend to happen in the middle of normalcy. In the middle of FAMUs drive, Jags linebacker Corry Roy snatched the ball out of Flemings hands but before he could put it away Rattler offensive lineman Zerrie Patterson knocked the ball out of Roy’s hands straight up into the air. Roy caught the fumble and raced towards the endzone. Before he could get there FAMU running back Eddie Rocker jumped on the 230 pound Hawaiian and wrestled him to the ground. Here’s where things got a little weird. Somehow Rocker wound up underneath Roy as the pair fell to the ground at the 6 yard line. Roy, resting on top of Rocker, tossed the ball to trailing linebacker Daniel Brown who carried it in for the game winning score.
FAMUs hopes ended in the redzone with less than a minute to play. Rattler punt returner Lenworth Lennon returned Chase Tuten’s 28 yard punt- 22 yards for first and 10 inside the Southern 40 with a full two minutes left to play. The Rattlers offense picked up 32 of the 38 yards it needed to tie the game in just one minute and 34 seconds. All hope for overtime or an outright win ended right there on the Jaguars 6 yard line. On 4 th and 3 Fleming’s pass to Harvey, a pairing that had worked twice before for scores, fell aimlessly to the synthetic grass.
Yes, the game was short one marching band but it was long on exciting college football. For those who opted not to attend because of the band’s absence should be reminded of why the band plays in the first place.
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