This time Southern University finished off Florida A&M at the Georgia Dome.
The Jaguars avenged last season’s loss to FAMU in the Atlanta Football Classic with a 21-14 victory Saturday. Southern’s defense scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and then preserved the victory with a stand in the final minute.
The Jaguars improved to 2-0 under interim coach Dawson Odums, who took over after Stump Mitchell was fired.
“If coach Odums is not given the job tonight then something is wrong over there in Baton Rouge,” FAMU coach Joe Taylor said. “He certainly had his team ready, and they played at a high level.”
FAMU (2-3) suffered a rare loss in the Classic, which has been played annually at the Dome since 1992. The Rattlers fell to 13-5 in the event and lost for just the second time in their past 12 Classic games.
FAMU defeated Southern 38-33 in last year’s classic and the Jaguars had led 33-17 late in the third quarter. This time neither team led by more than a touchdown, and the Jaguars earned the victory on a wild sequence in the fourth quarter.
FAMU quarterback Damien Fleming was trying to break a tackle in the backfield when Jaguars linebacker Corey Roy knocked the ball loose. Roy scooped it up and appeared headed for a touchdown but was corralled near the goal line.
The ball popped into the air near the left sideline — it appeared Roy was trying to lateral the ball as he was tackled. Southern’s Daniel Brown picked up the ball at the 6-yard line and ran in for the touchdown.
“We kept talking about how we needed a turnover to ignite the team,” Odums said. “If we could just get one it would change the momentum. We didn’t know it was going to be a touchdown.”
Brown’s score gave Southern its first lead of the game, and it held up when the Jaguars stopped FAMU in the red zone in the final minute.
A good punt return set up FAMU at Southern’s 38, and the Rattlers earned a first down at the 13 with less than two minutes to play. On fourth down Fleming tried to find Travis Harvey in the end zone but Harvey cut off his route and the pass fell incomplete.
FAMU lost in spite of forcing three turnovers, including a fumble recovery that set up a touchdown less than three minutes into the game.
“We simply got outplayed,” Taylor said. “They played harder and they deserved to win.”
The attendance was announced as 41,042, a big drop off from the crowd of nearly 60,000 for last season’s meeting between the two teams.
The game lacked the traditional battle of the bands because FAMU’s famed Marching 100 were suspended in the wake of a hazing death of a band member last November. The Southern band performed at halftime and spelled out “FAMU” in one of its formations.
The Classic is the major fundraiser for 100 Black Men of Atlanta’s mentoring program, Project Success.