Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Florida A&M
by Jeff Ouellet, 10/14/04
Saturday, October 16th, 2004, 1 pm
Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):
Click the "Blacksburg Weather" link to the right.
Saturday forecast, as of 10:00 am Thursday: Scattered clouds, high of 52, chance
of rain 17%.
Click here for TechSideline.com's VT/FAMU
Preview: Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1 ACC) vs. Florida A&M (2-4)
by Jeff Ouellet
With a rough three game stretch now in the books, the Virginia Tech Hokies (4-2,
2-1) begin the back nine, knowing that this week is their last mulligan of the
season. Coming into the cozy confines of Lane Stadium this weekend are the
Rattlers of Florida A&M. This one should have all the drama of a Tiger
Woods-Charles Barkley Skins challenge.
The Rattlers intended to move up to Division I-A in football this year, but for
a variety of reasons that move has been delayed. In preparation for the move,
however, A&M scheduled four Division I teams and the results against the
first three have been downright ugly. Florida A&M lost to Illinois, Tulane
and Temple, all teams at or near the bottom of their respective conferences, by
a combined score of 129-39. After beating Tennessee State and Virginia Union,
the Rattlers dropped a game to Nicholls State 42-25 last weekend, giving them a
season record of 2-4.
The Head Coach at Florida A&M is former NFL and AFL player William “Billy”
Joe, a coaching lifer born close to Allentown in Coatesville, Pennsylvania (can
you tell I’m searching for material already?). Joe has an impressive career
record of 236-104, and his win total is fourth among active Division I coaches
behind only Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, and Lou Holtz. He is second all time
behind only the legendary Eddie Robinson in Black College Football career wins.
The Rattlers spread the field with three and four receivers and feature a short
passing game. The base formation for the Rattlers is a four wide set.
Out of 469 plays from scrimmage, the Rattlers have thrown on 272, or 58% of the
time. The passing game is west coast style. A&M throws for 287.5 yards per
game, and rushes for 116.2 yards per game. So, despite having a decent pass/run
ratio for a four-wide team, the vast majority of the production for the Rattlers
comes through the air.
Emphasizing the short passing game may be a necessity, as they don’t have a
running game to keep opponents honest (they average 3.5 yards per carry, a very
low number) and they have given up 29 sacks for over 200 yards already this
season. Trying to go deep too often could result in serious bodily injury to
Speaking of quarterbacks, 6’4”, 215 Ben Dougherty is an experienced senior
starter who has solid season stats. He has thrown for 213 yards per game,
including eight touchdowns versus four interceptions, and he completes almost
62% of his throws. He also is the Rattlers second leading rusher with 134 net
yards, but keep in mind his rushing total would be much higher if not for 152
negative rushing yards from sacks. In fact, he has the second longest run of the
year (33 yards) for the Rattlers. Dougherty was injured in the last game and is
questionable for this game at the time I write this article (his status should
be decided after Thursday’s practice).
The backup on the depth chart is 6’2”, 220 JR Josh Driscoll (33-53, 328
yards), but after Dougherty’s injury last week he was not inserted into the
game because he didn’t have his helmet available (I’m not making this up).
So, third string R-FR Albert Chester (5’11”, 195) got a shot, and he
performed admirably leading the Rattlers to a touchdown late, so Driscoll never
did see the field. It is anyone’s guess who will play quarterback this week if
Dougherty can’t go.
The running back for A&M is 5’10”, 200 JR Rashard Pompey. Pompey has 361
yards rushing on a 4.6 per carry average and five touchdowns. His backup is 5’11”,
242 bruiser Paul Sharpe. Sharpe has only 19 carries on the year but he has a
good per average (6.6 per carry). If he hopes to gain any yards against VT, he
will have to go north-south.
The two outside receivers for FAMU are 6’2”, 170 SO Gerald Morgan and 5’9”,
160 SO Roosevelt Kiser. In the slot positions are 5’11”, 190 JR Ronnie
Thomas and 5’10”, 180 SR Maurice Demps.
Thomas is the leader in receptions this year with 39, including three
touchdowns. He is a possession receiver as he averages only 8.1 yards per catch
with a season long of 24. The second leading receiver is Kiser, who has 39 grabs
for 469 yards (12.7 average) and four touchdowns. The big play guy is Morgan,
who has only 15 catches but averages 16.6 per reception. Demps has 14 catches at
a 9.6 yards per reception clip.
The leading receiver for the Rattlers in 2003 was 5’10”, 180 SR Rod Miller
(71 catches). Miller is probably the best player outside for A&M. He sat out
the first five games of the year for an NCAA suspension, but returned last week
to grab eight passes for 132 yards. He probably will be their go to guy this
Both backs are involved in the passing game too, as Sharpe and Pompey have
combined for 23 catches this year.
The offensive line has struggled. A&M hasn’t been able to run the ball and
they yield a lot of sacks. The Hokies defensive line should dominate up front.
One thing that can be said for the Rattlers, though, is they have size, going
310-350-350-340-340 along the front. From left tackle to right tackle, these are
the measurables: 6’4”, 310 SO Lenard Black, 6’4”, 350 JR Tarell Baldwin,
6’5”, 350 JR Garth McIntosh, 6’2”, 340 SR Mafileo Vakalaki, and 6’7”,
340 SO Daniel Parrish. I think the Rattlers paycheck for this game may go just
to feeding these guys. McIntosh suffered a foot injury last week, and he may not
be able to play.
Experienced 6’4”, 325 SR Fletcher Williams (also suspended by the NCAA for
five games) returned to action at right guard last week. He started three years
at A&M before missing last year due to injury, and he should see a lot of
time against VT and possibly start. There have been easier ways to knock the
rust off than going against the VT defensive line.
The Rattlers offense would be considered their relative strength, as the defense
is giving up 32.7 points per game and has been torched by their three Division
I-A opponents. Offenses average 5.0 yards per carry and 13.3 yards per
completion against the Rattlers. Foremost among the problems is the failure to
make any negative plays, as A&M has only three sacks and 24 tackles for a
loss this year. A&M plays a base 4-3 defense, although their players play
sides of the field rather than boundary versus field.
Up front the Rattlers start two juniors and two seniors. At defensive end are
the two seniors, 6’3”, 225 Jeff Green and 6’4”, 270 Clarence Laws. Green
is second on the team with 41 tackles, including 2.5 for losses. Laws has 11
tackles on the season.
Inside 6’2”, 300 JR Albert Williams (from Clewiston, the same high school as
Eric Green) and 6’1”, 275 JR Altariq Brown are the starters. Brown is a
playmaker with 25 tackles and 4 tackles for losses, including two of the three
sacks for the Rattlers. Williams has 13 tackles on the year.
The big playmaker in the linebacking corps is 5’11”, 218 right outside
linebacker Michael Foreman. He leads the team with 43 tackles. In the middle is
6’0”, 225 freshman Melvin Jenkins (24 tackles, one for a loss) from Bartow,
Florida. On the left side is 6’0”, 225 Darius Fountain, fourth on the team
with 38 tackles including four for a loss.
6’3, 205 JR strong safety Sam Doughty is often near the line of scrimmage, as
demonstrated by his 41 tackles (tied for second on the team), 4.5 tackles for a
loss (best on the team), 1 sack (second on the team) and two interceptions
(leads the team). He will be a busy man on Saturday, alternating between
tracking Mike Imoh and providing deep help on the likes of Eddie Royal. The
other safety is Ben Johnson, a 6’0”, 180 SR from Miami. Johnson has 34
tackles and a pick on the year.
The right corner is 6’1”, 191 SR Edward Kwaku, while manning the left side
is 5’10”, 200 JR Devin Richardson. Kwaku has an interception and 11 tackles
on the year, while Richardson has contributed 24 tackles.
Overall, the Rattlers defense has a lot of veterans (10 of 11 starters are
juniors or seniors), but it has been consistently victimized this year.
FAMU’s Special Teams
The statistics in the kicking game are downright abysmal. A&M hasn’t made
a single field goal on the year (misses from 22, 26 and 39 yards), and they are
only 8 of 13 on PAT attempts. SO Paul Johnson gets the majority of the tries, as
he has missed two of the field goals and is 7-10 on extra points. The Rattlers
have used two other players to kick extra points.
Damon Miller, a senior, is a solid punter. He is averaging 42.5 yards per kick
and nearly one-third (10 of 31) of his punts have been downed inside the 20. The
team’s net of 33.6 yards is not that good, but that is in part due to having
three punts blocked this year.
5’9”, 160 FR William Judson is the leading kick returner, with a 21.3
average on kickoffs and a 5.2 average on punts. The team only averages 17.6
yards per kickoff return and 5.8 yards per punt return.
VT has played some bad teams over the last decade and a half at Lane, and this
Rattler crew might not be able to stand toe to toe with some of them. Frank
Beamer has to give the party line about respecting his opponents, but this game
is a complete and utter mismatch. Florida A&M hasn’t beaten a Division I
team since 1979, when it notched a win over the Miami Hurricanes (my, how
fortunes have changed).
This game comes at a great time for the Hokies. It will permit ailing players to
get healthy (Noland Burchette, Xavier Adibi, Eddie Royal, and perhaps James
Griffin) in time for the Georgia Tech game in two weeks, and it will allow VT’s
pass defense to work on coverage assignments in something akin to glorified
skeleton drills. Although the secondary has played well overall, there still are
some assignments being missed. Also, it will allow the linebackers, most notably
Vince Hall, to get a lot of practice on coverage drops in a game situation.
With respect to the offense, the Hokie running game should be able to assert
itself and many of the backups – most notably Sean Glennon and the backup
offensive linemen – can get some game time prior to what is shaping up to be a
tough closing stretch.
The only real debate for me in making this prediction was deciding whether the
game would be a shutout. After seeing the statistics on Florida A&M’s
special teams, I’m going to call the whitewash.
Prediction: VT 48, Florida A&M 0
Will Stewart's Take: What the heck, I
think FAMU will score a late TD, setting off a wild celebration on the Rattler
Will's Prediction: VT 52, Florida A&M 7
TSL Football Page