– Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming completed 30-of-37 passes
for a career-high 399 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Rattlers to
a 24-22 win over Delaware State in the Hornets' MEAC opener at Alumni
Stadium this evening.
The Hornets pulled to within 24-22 on a five-yard touchdown run by freshman Nagee Jackson with 6:39 left to play. The Hornets attempted a two-point conversion following the touchdown, but Florida A&M's Brandon Denmark foiled the attempt when he tackled DSU tight end Jahmel Bashir short of the goal line on a pass from Nick Elko.
Florida A&M held the ball for the final 6:33 of the game, collecting five first downs- two on third down-during the drive.
Rattlers won their second straight game to improve to 2-2 overall and
2-0 in the MEAC. The Hornets dropped their third straight to fall to 1-3
"We were in position to make some plays down the stretch,
but Florida A&M found a way to frustrate us time and time again,"
said Delaware State head coach Kermit Blount. "Our kids went toe-to-toe
against a well-coached Florida A&M team that found a way to come up
with big plays throughout the contest."
Delaware State opened the
scoring with some strong running on the game's first possession.
Freshman Dae-Hon Cheung capped off the six-play, 66-yard drive with a
10-yard touchdown run with 11:32 left in the first quarter. Cheung
rushed for 55 yards on five carries during the drive, including runs of
26, 14 and 10 yards. Playing in just his fourth collegiate game, Cheung
rushed for a career-high 135 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. His
total was the most by a DSU freshman since Terrance Hoover ran for 160
yards vs. North Carolina A&T in 1984. Cheung's rushing yards were
also the most by any DSU player since Jaashawn Jones had 144 yards vs.
NCA&T in 2010.
Cheung started the game because the Hornets' leading rusher Malcolm Williams sat out the contest due to a hamstring injury.
Florida A&M answered DSU's touchdown with one of its own on the ensuing possession. Fleming connected with James Owens on an eight-yard scoring pass with 9:06 left in the opening quarter. The extra point kick by Chase Varnadore tied the game at 7-7. Fleming completed each of his three passes for 66 yards and had an 11-yard run during the five-play, 68-yard drive.
Delaware State regained the lead 10-7 on a 29-yard
field goal by Mitchell Ward with 11:41 left in the second quarter. Elko
and Travis Tarpley connected on an 11-yard first down pass, while Cheung
had runs of 10 and 13 yards during the drive. The Hornets had a first
down at the Florida A&M seven yard line during the possession, but a
rush for no gain and two incompletions ended the march.
The Rattlers took the lead for good when Fleming and wide receiver Travis Harvey hooked up for the first of their two touchdown passes. The duo connected on a 21-yard scoring pass on third and goal to give Florida A&M a 13-10 lead with 7:38 left in the second quarter. Varnadore's extra point gave the Rattlers a four-point lead.
Harvey had a game-high 11 catches for 122 yards for Florida A&M.
and Harvey struck again on a nine-yard scoring pass to give the
Rattlers a 21-10 lead with 4:12 left in the third quarter. Florida
A&M was aided on the 10-play, 76-yard by a Delaware State running
into the punter penalty. Fleming also completed a 38-yard pass to
Dewayne Harvey during the drive.
Delaware State climbed back into the game on the ensuing possession. Cheung capped off the nine-play, 76-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run to pull the Hornets to with 21-16 with 16 second left in the third quarter. Elko completed 4-of-5 passes for 34 yards and rushed for a first down on a fourth down play during the drive. The Hornets attempted a two-point conversion following touchdown, but an attempted pass from Elko to wide open tight end Ryan Langdon was batted down by Florida A&M's Branden Davis.
The Rattlers stretched their lead to 24-16 on a 29-yard field goal by Varnadore with 10:34 left in the game.
Elko completed 15-of-21 passes for 194 yards, while Tarpley led the Hornets with a season-high 10 catches for 129 yards.
Fleming completed passes to nine different receivers for the Rattlers.
State safety Davon Moore led all players with a career-high 14 tackles,
including eight solo stops. Ernest Adjei (11) and Terrick Colston (10)
also reached double figures in tackles for the Hornets.
DSU is idle next weekend. The Hornets return to action on Oct. 6 at defending MEAC champ Norfolk State.
Florida A&M will take on Southern University in Atlanta, Ga., next Saturday.