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Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Florida A&M
by Jeff Ouellet, 10/14/04

Saturday, October 16th, 2004, 1 pm

TV: none

Forecast (from
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's VT/FAMU roster card

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.

FAMU’s Offense

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 their quarterbacks.

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 week.

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.

FAMU’s Defense

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.

The Lowdown

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 sideline.

Will's Prediction: VT 52, Florida A&M 7

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