ATLANTA --- Tennessee State put itself in a comeback position very early which proved too much for the Tigers to overcome in a 37-24 setback against Florida A&M in the 2002 edition of the Atlanta Football Classic in the Georgia Dome Saturday evening.
The Tigers out-gained the Rattlers in total offense 445 yards to 310. However, the Tigers were penalized 12 times for 109 yards, and committed an interception that led to a TD, and FAMU returned a blocked field goal 96 yards as FAMU raced to a 20-3 lead after the opening period of play.
TSU fought back, but FAMU was able to keep the Tigers to pulling within a TD as TSU moved to the FAMU 34-yard line before being stopped on downs in the fourth quarter. FAMU was able to run out the clock to secure the victory.
?We hurt ourselves very early in the game with the penalties and the big plays,? said TSU head coach James Reese. ?We have to eliminate the mistakes. Florida A&M is a good football team.
The contest was played before an Atlanta Classic record crowd of 67,167 in the Georgia Dome. Despite the early deficit, the Tigers continued battling the 11th ranked Rattlers.
True freshman Dwayne Buchanan made the start at quarterback in his first collegiate game. Buchanan completed 14-26-2 passes for 205 yards and two TD's in his debut. He also rushed for 39 yards on 16 carries.
TSU got off to a positive start as sophomore running back Charles Anthony broke loose for a 66-yard run to the FAMU 3-yard line. However, the Tigers ended up having to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Joey Hudak.
A pair of penalties helped Florida A&M move downfield to go ahead. Marco Junios was on the receiving end of an 11-yard pass from Reggie Hayes. The Tigers Deon Giddens blocked the PAT attempted, but FAMU was ahead 6-3 at the 11:42 mark.
Bilal Davis returned the ensuing kickoff to FAMU's 35. The Tigers had a high snap out of the shotgun and then an interception followed giving the Rattlers the football at TSU's 25. The Rattlers took advantage in a hurry as Hayes threw 24 yards to Dennis Bonga.
The Tigers responded by putting together a long drive. After the drive stopped at FAMU's 26, Hudak's field goal was blocked and picked up at the 4-yardline by Levy Brown who raced 96 yards for the TD.
The Tigers cut into the lead on a 31-yard option pass from Carlos Wright to C.J. Johnson. Johnson crossed the 2000-yard mark in career receiving mark with the grab.
FAMU was able to take a 30-10 lead into halftime after a Hayes' 5-yard run and a 47-yard field goal by Juan Vasquez which hit the cross bar and bounced through to make the score 30-10 in the final minute of play.
TSU continued to move the football in the second half. The Tigers second half scores came in the fourth period on an 11-yard pass from Buchanan to Ande Durojaye and a 65-yard play from Buchanan to Johnson.
Isa Rahman had nine total tackles. Linebacker Jermaine Beale had four tackles for loss among eight total stops. True freshman Olten Downs also had eight total stops.
The Tigers open Ohio Valley Conference play at upstart Southeast Missouri next week. The Indians pulled off a big 24-14 upset at Middle Tennessee Saturday night.