Florida A&M (4-0) at (11) Miami-Florida (3-1)
Saturday, October 10th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Miami-Florida Hurricanes take a break from what has been a daunting schedule thus far when they play host to the Rattlers of Florida A&M this Saturday at Landshark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The Rattlers, a FCS team playing its football out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, are a perfect 4-0 on the season following wins over Delaware State, Winston-Salem State, Howard and Tennessee State. FAMU, off to its best start since 1997 and currently ranked 22nd in The Sports Network's FCS Top-25 Poll, was idle last weekend, giving coach Joe Taylor's team some extra time to batten down the hatches as it attempts to weather the storm that awaits this week.
Miami is playing one of the more adventurous schedules in the nation this season, and the first four games have been against teams (Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma) that have been or are currently ranked in the Top-25. The 'Canes are 3-1 overall, 2-1 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and outlasted the visiting Sooners last weekend in a 21-20 final. Miami will play two more non-conference games following this affair, teeing it up against UCF on October 17th and winding up the regular season against South Florida in Tampa on November 28th.
Miami head coach Randy Shannon is pleased with the effort his team has shown through the first part of the schedule, but knows there is work to be done. "We've got a good football team. We've got some things we need to get better on. We are getting there, but we got to clean up the little things."
Miami owns a 6-1 series advantage over Florida A&M, and has won six in a row since the Rattlers won the initial encounter in Tallahassee back in 1979.
Quarterback Curtis Pulley leads the Florida A&M offense into battle this week against a formidable Miami defense, and the Walter Payton Award (given annually by The Sports Network to the top player at the FCS level) candidate is capable of beating teams with both his arm and his legs. A former Kentucky Wildcat, Pulley has hit the mark on 64-of-96 pass attempts for 846 yards and seven TDs with only one INT, while also rushing for 291 yards and a score. He currently ranks ninth in the nation in total offense with 284.25 ypg, and is fifth in QB rating at 162.67.
Eddie Rocker is the team's starting tailback, but he has gained just 185 yards on 35 carries so it is clear that coach Taylor prefers the ball stay in Pulley's hands.
Isaac West and Kevin Elliott both have 18 catches to their credit and have combined for 596 yards and five TDs.
The Rattlers are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 33.5 ppg, while permitting just 11 ppg, tying the team for second nationally in scoring defense.
FAMU is led on defense by LB Bryan Parker and his 31 tackles. As a team, the Rattlers are giving up just 246 total ypg, which has them tied for ninth in the nation coming into action this week.
The Rattlers have one of the top punt returners at any level, as LeRoy Vann holds the school record for career punt return TDs with seven. Four of those have come this season. With 392 yards already this year, he is just 86 yards shy of setting a new school standard for punt return yards in a season.
Jacory Harris threw three TD passes in leading Miami past Oklahoma last Saturday. Harris, a 61.6 percent passer on the year who averages 252 ypg and has thrown eight TD passes against five INTs, completed passes to 11 different players in the win, but was picked off twice and sacked four times. He wound up 19-of-28 for 202 yards.
Javarris James had a tremendous game for coach Shannon's club, rushing for a career-high 150 yards on 15 carries, although he did not reach the end zone.
Shannon liked what he saw from the run game. "That's our offense - we make you stop the run. If you can't stop the run then we are going to just keep pounding and pounding."
The Hurricanes were successful on 8-of-13 third down conversion attempts, and survived 12 penalties for a loss of 115 yards.
While Harris has been effective, none of the receivers have established themselves as stars to this point, and while three have logged double-digit catches, LaRon Byrd leads the pack with just 11. Travis Benjamin paces the club with 218 receiving yards and he has a pair of TD catches to his credit.
The Miami run game boasts a solid one-two punch in the form of James and Graig Cooper, the two combining for 493 yards and four TDs. The team as a whole has scored only five rushing TDs and averages just 3.5 ypc through the first four games.
With Oklahoma playing yet again without Heisman-winning QB Sam Bradford, the Miami defense was able to contain what is typically a potent offensive team. The Sooners finished with 341 total yards, and failed to move the chains on 10 of their 15 third down tries. They did manage to score points on all three trips to the red zone. Sean Spence led Miami with a career-high tying 10 tackles, while Vaughn Telemaque totaled a career-best nine stops. The 'Canes registered a season-high three sacks in the clash.
Despite the winning record, the Hurricanes are giving up more points than they score on average (25.5 ppg to 24.8 ppg). Colin McCarthy is the team's leader in tackles (32) after four games. Turnovers haven't been easy to come by for the 'Canes thus far, coming up with just four, only one of which has been an INT.
Pulley is a talent, and the FAMU defense has been impressive thus far. The leap in competition level is substantial here though, making the Rattlers serious underdogs. It will be difficult for A&M to get into any kind of offensive rhythm as it goes up against a team as big, strong and fast as Miami.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 38, Florida A&M 13
10/07 10:32:28 ET