The 125th season of Black College Football season kicked with Florida A&M putting on a performance in the inaugural Jake Gaither Classic Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla., that would have most certainly would have made the Rattlers’ legendary Hall of Fame coach smile.
Playing a home season-opener for the first time since 2011, the Rattlers dominated Texas Southern with a stifling defense and a methodical offense en route to a 29-7 victory.
Florida A&M’s offense piled up 415 total yards. Defensively, the Rattlers were reminiscent of the agile, hostile and mobile units that were Gaither’s staple during his 25-year career that saw him produce 203-36-4 record with an .841 winning percentage. They limited Texas Southern to fewer than 100 total yards through the first three-quarters, and they didn’t allow the Tigers to cross midfield until the fourth quarter. The Rattlers sacked Texas Southern quarterback Jay Christophe three times, made him throw under duress on virtually all of his pass attempts and held the Tigers to 140 yards through the air.
Texas Southern only managed 62 rushing yards and ended the game with 202 total yards.
Florida A&M was noted for its depth during Gaither’s reign, boasting Blood, Sweat and Tears units while going three-deep at nearly every position without a noticeable drop-off in talent and production. The 2017 version of the Rattlers can’t match the depth of those teams of yesteryear, but they were able to wear down Texas Southern with redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Stanley, who started the final seven games of the 2016 season, leading an efficient. Stanley finished the game with 217 passing yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. He scored the Rattlers’ first touchdown on a nine-yard run on their second drive when he dropped back to pass, saw an opening up the middle and set sail for the end zone. His touchdown capped a 74-yard drive. Florida A&M drove inside the 10-yard line on their first possession but missed a short field goal.
Running back Devin Bowers scored on a six-yard run in the second quarter and Stanley connected with Brandon Norwood on a 35-yard scoring play for what proved to be an insurmountable 20-0 halftime lead.
Texas Southern arrived in Tallahassee a day earlier than scheduled to get of Hurricane Harvey, which had been predicted to hit Houston. As the third quarter started, the Tigers could well have been thinking they would have done just as well to stay at home. Senior safety Archie Rice was ejected in the second quarter when he was flagged for a targeting personal foul, and a pair Texas Southern defensive linemen left the game with injuries.
Freshman Terio Brown fielded the second half kickoff near his goal line, retreated into the end zone and took a knee to give the Rattlers a safety and two points. Florida A&M scored again on a 12-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Vincent Jeffries following the Tigers’ free kick. The score gave the Rattlers nine points in the quarter before Texas Southern had run a play from scrimmage.
Texas Southern scored on a 35-yard pass from Christophe to Darvin Kidsey with 14:16 left in the game. Prior to that play, the Tigers had only gained 65 yards while running 35 plays. Texas Southern threatened to score again with less than five minutes left in the game. The Tigers drove inside the 10-yard line – their first trip into the red zone – but the Rattlers turned them away without points when Jules Dornvil came up with an interception in the end zone.
The victory extended Florida A&M’s dominance against Texas Southern. The Rattlers lead the all-time series 10-2. The teams met for 11 consecutive years from 1958-68. Texas Southern’s victories came in 1963 and ’65.
Florida A&M’s 2017 victory came in front of the undefeated 1977 Rattlers team (11-0) that was recognized during a pregame ceremony. The ’77 squad was Florida A&M last unbeaten team and the only unbeaten at any level of college football that year.
Bethel 19, Edward Waters 13 – The Wildcats built a 16-0 lead and held on for a home victory. Bethel used a balanced offense to secure the win. The Wildcats controlled the game on the passing of quarterback Sam Castronova, who threw for 252 yards and a touchdown. The Wildcats kept Edward Waters off balance with an efficient running game that accounted for 123 yards. Taye Davis led the running game with 76 yards. Davis’ one-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter gave Bethel a 10-0 lead. Castronova’s 22-yard third quarter touchdown pass to Marvin Rudd increased the lead to 16-0. Kyveon Jones scampered 72 yards for a touchdown for Edward Waters’ first points. Dalton McCann booted 21-yard field goal with one second left in the third quarter, his second field goal of the game, the scoring for Bethel. Edward Waters tacked on another touchdown when quarterback Tyler Mahia threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Hughes on a fourth-and-goal play with 3:40 left in the game. Edward Waters got the ball back drove deep into Bethel territory but Mahia’s pass was intercepted at the 17 to end the threat and seal the win.
Louisburg 41, Va.-Lynchburg 10 – The Dragons were never in the game while suffering a road loss.
(Photo: Think Stock)
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