Game Day Articles
Rattlers' offense wilts versus Owls
By Heath A. Smith
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
There were a lot of fireworks at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but none of them came from Florida A&M's offense.
On a day when the defense and special teams played well, it was the offense that couldn't hold up its end in the Rattlers' 38-8 loss to the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls.
"Our defense and special teams played competitive football," said FAMU head football coach Billy Joe. "We knew we had a tall order."
The loss guaranteed Joe his first losing season at FAMU, while FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger secured his second winning season after going 6-15 in his first two years with the Owls, who are a provisional DivisionI-A program.
"We are really proud of our football team for bouncing back from that loss last week," Schnellenberger said, referring to the Owls' 17-13 loss to Louisiana-Monroe. "To get our sixth win is very important."
In the first half, FAMU senior quarterback Ben Dougherty struggled enough for Joe to bench him just before halftime. Dougherty would not comment on the decision, but Joe said it had more to do with trying something different than Dougherty's performance in particular.
Junior quarterback Josh Driscoll also struggled, and Joe benched him in favor of Dougherty again after three third-quarter series.
"Ben started the game, and we began to get a little bit bogged down," Joe said. "We were getting mistakes from the quarterback spot. We thought we'd get momentum with a change at quarterback, and it didn't happen."
Dougherty did finally lead the Rattlers into the end zone in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ronnie Thomas. He finished the game with 194 yards on 20-of-36 passing.
Driscoll went 3 of 7 for 23 yards and an interception. Dougherty also threw an interception.
Joe said that, while his quarterbacks could have played better, Florida Atlantic's defense was the greatest cause of the Rattlers' offensive struggles.
"I don't think FAMU's offense is the problem," Joe said. "Let's give Florida Atlantic's defense some credit. We are still a good offense. We made some mistakes and they shut us down today."
FAMU's offensive shortcomings overshadowed a defensive and special-teams performance that kept the game in reach going into the second half.
FAU (6-1) outgained FAMU 334 total yards to 81 and reached the red zone six times in the first half, but the Owls came away with just three scores, two touchdowns and a field goal.
Two blocked field goals, and an interception by senior cornerback Wally Kwaku, prevented the Owls from capitalizing on more of their first-half red-zone opportunities.
FAU running back Doug Parker carried the ball five times for 26 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown on the Owls opening drive, while quarterback Jared Allen completed 2 of 3 passes for 43 yards.
The Owls didn't add to their score, however, until Mark Myers' 37-yard field goal in the second quarter.
FAMU had a chance to go into halftime trailing just 10-0, but the Owls took advantage of the Rattlers' decision to go for it on fourth-and-one at their own 44.
Dougherty fumbled the exchange from center, and the Rattlers ended up turning the ball over on downs.
The Owls made the Rattlers pay for the gamble by scoring their second touchdown of the half, this time a 14-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Danny Embrick to tight end Anthony Crissinger-Hill.
The Rattlers (3-6) had a chance for a comeback in the second half, but turnovers, which have plagued the Rattlers all season, came back to bite them again. The Rattlers will not play again until the Florida Classic in Orlando against state rival Bethune-Cookman on Nov.20. They finish out the season Nov.27 against Florida International in Miami.
"We can't go back and change what has happened," Dougherty said. "We just need to work hard and get better. We'll be ready to play against B-CC. I guarantee that."
Game Day Articles
By Brett Malone
There was no MEAC Championship to contend for. Not this year.
An aborted move to DivisionI-A in the summer of 2003 left FAMU without enough MEAC opponents to schedule in 2004, so that ruled out the chance of playing for the title. It left a hollow feeling for some of the players, especially punter Damon Miller.
"Going into the season knowing that we wouldn't play for a MEAC Championship hurt, but we played for pride," Miller said. "A lot of us easily could have left and sat out a year somewhere or went to a lower-level school and played for a championship, but this is where our heart is and this is where we want to finish up."
The season hasn't gotten any easier on the emotions of the Florida A&M players. They've endured a series of ego-bruising defeats, and after Saturday's 38-8 loss to Florida Atlantic the Rattlers will be able to finish 5-6 at best, the first losing season since 1993.
"It's been tough. We didn't go into any game thinking we were going to lose, even Virginia Tech. As a team we felt that we should have won Illinois, Tulane and FAU," Miller said.
But to preserve team pride, Miller knows exactly what needs to be done.
Before the Rattlers started tangling with DivisionI-A opponents on a frequent basis, there was another game that was circled on the calendar as the biggest game of the year. The 25th Annual Florida Classic against Bethune-Cookman is where Miller wants to leave his mark.
"That was the biggest event as a young player," Miller said. "There's something about playing there that gets you all excited. We could win all our games in the season and lose to B-CC and that's a losing season for us and the fans."
If it comes down to Miller's unit making a difference in that game, this season has shown they're ready for the task.
Miller came into Saturday's game ranked 11th in DivisionI-AA, averaging 42.2 yards per punt. He added seven punts with an average of 42.1 yards against the Owls. If Miller continues his production, he'll eclipse his average of 38.9 yards from his junior season.
"The surgery set me back after the spring, but I told myself I was going to train harder and push more this year because this is my last chance," said Miller, who underwent surgery to repair an MCL injury. "A lot of us, especially on the punt team, know that it comes down to us whether we'll win the game."
Game Day Articles
By St. Clair Murraine
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
Howard Schnellenberger rushed past a throng of reporters and cameramen Saturday. He wanted to hurry to the Florida Atlantic locker room.
Florida A&M quarterback Ben Dougherty was heading in the same direction. Hardly anyone noticed.
He and Schnellenberger didn't see each other. But they eventually crossed paths.
Actually, Schnellenberger made sure of that.
He squeezed his way past the unusually large media turnout, which came to watch his Owls at Bragg Stadium.
"Here's a man whose hand I want to shake," the veteran coach said, stretching to reach Dougherty. "You're going to be a great one (quarterback) some day. I don't know how you all figured out those plays we were sending down from the (coaches') box."
FAMU didn't figure out enough, though.
So Schnellenberger left town with a 38-8 victory - and a much better feeling than he did when he brought a Miami team to Tallahassee and lost by a field goal in 1979.
Dougherty knows that much. He also knew that Schnellenberger came to town with a much better team this time than he did 25 years ago.
That much was obvious by his response to Schnellenberger's praise.
But first, Dougherty blushed.
"Trying to pick your brain is tough," he responded.
It was a tough afternoon for the Rattlers. Dougherty couldn't get FAMU's offense fired up. Neither could backup quarterbacks Josh Driscoll or Albert Chester.
And this was seniors' day on top of that.
"It's very frustrating to lose in front of your home fans," Dougherty said. "They have a great team, but a lot of times we made them look better than they actually are.
"We were prepared to play, but we just weren't getting the ball moving."
Especially on the ground. FAMU's rushing game was held to just 103 yards, and its trio of quarterbacks combined for 239 passing yards.
After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Rattlers squandered several opportunities to score. The defense couldn't have played much better.
The highlights from the televised game would probably show Michael Foreman's diving stop on a punt just inside the Owls'3. TV also got lots of special-teams highlights, including two blocked punts.
But Damon Miller's big boots could have easily stole the show. He averaged 42.1 yards after seven punt returns.
Seems Miller was good enough to make Schnellenberger pace the sidelines, arms folded. The Owls had to work from deep in their territory on almost every drive.
But was the FAMU offense really causing that much trouble, coach? Or was it the defense?
"They made a decision to come up with the blitz and it was a really intelligent decision because last week it gave us more trouble than we'd like," Schnellenberger said.
But still the only fireworks on the part of the Rattlers came in the halftime demonstration.
FAMU won't play again for three weeks. The time off will be a period for the Rattlers to reflect.
They'll see this won't be a season that ends with at least a .500 record.
But they'll play their remaining two games with a sense of purpose, coach Billy Joe said.
Maybe for pride.
"I don't think we think we need to revolutionize the wheel and change everything we're doing from an offensive standpoint," Joe said. "We're just going to get some polish and some refinement and we'll be OK."
Game Day Articles
Visiting Owls roll up 591 total yards in win; Rattlers drop to 3-6 with bye weeks on tap
Damon Miller, Division I-AA's ninth-ranked punter, averaged 46.5 yards per kick Saturday against FAU.
Oct. 30, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Atlantic Owls piled up 591 total yards in a 38-8 win over Florida A&M in the Rattlers' home football finale Saturday afternoon at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Florida A&M (3-6) suffered their third loss in four games and their second home loss in four tries at home this year.
Florida Atlantic (6-1), won their 11th straight road game Saturday, rushing for 276 yards and passing for 315 yards.
FAU's Jared Allen tossed a pair of scoring passes, finishing with 224 yards on nine-of-20 passing. Danny Embick went six-for-12 through the air, passing for 91 yards and one score.
The Owls' Tony Crissinger-Hill had six catches for 163 yards, including a 78-yarder that set up an FAU field goal. Hill also caught a pair of TD passes.
The FAU trio of Doug Parker (18 carries, 79 yards, one TD), Anthony Jackson (six carries, 68 yards) and Dekolan James (five carries for 61 yards) powered the Owls' ground attack.
Meanwhile, the Rattlers' offensive struggles continued as they didn't score until 7:17 remained in the game on Ben Dougherty's six-yard strike to Ronnie Thomas. Dougherty then tossed a two-point conversion to Ronald Wright.
?Dougherty finished the day 20 of 36 for 194 yards and one TD, against one interception.
He now moves into fourth place on the FAMU Career Passing List with 4,333 yards, passing Pat Bonner, who threw for 4,148 yards in 1998.
?Dougherty was also the club rushing leader with 55 yards on 11 carries, while junior halfback Rashard Pompey managed 17 yards on eight (8) carries.
?That pushed Pompey to 1,825 career rushing yards, leaving him 35 yards shy of Kwame Vidal (1993-96), who rushed for 1,860 yards.
?Linebacker Tayari Jones (nine tackles) and senior defensive end Jeff Green (eight tackles, one for loss) led a FAMU Defense that held FAU to seven points in three first period possessions and kept the Rattlers within reasonable striking distance, down just 17-0 at the half.
?But perhaps the most spectacular performance of the day belonged to senior punter Damon Miller. The Tallahassee native averaged 46.5 yards per kick on six (6) attempts, including a 70-yarder in the first period.
?Miller, who came into the game ranked #9 in Division I-AA in punting, had two of his kicks downed inside the FAU 20-yard line, with one getting pegged on the one-yard line.
WHAT'S NEXT: FAMU gets a pair of open dates (Nov. 6, 13) to prepare for archrival Bethune-Cookman. The Rattlers will tangle with the wildcats in The Walt Disney World Resorts Florida Classic XXV, presented by State Farm Insurance at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on November 20. Kickoff will be 4:00 p.m.