TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida A&M Rattlers rode the running of senior James Owens, while taking advantage of 164 yards in penalties against the visiting Hampton Pirates for a 44-20 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening.
Owens, a 5-foot-9 senior from Apopka, Fla., rushed for 157 yards on just 11 carries and scored three touchdowns. He set up the first score with an 81-yard gallop to inside the 5-yard line.
"We really missed him last year," FAMU coach Joe Taylor said of the diminutive speedster, who missed the 2011 season due to academics. "He is a legitimate 4.3 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) man, and he is capable of affecting the game not only on offense, but on special teams."
Trailing 7-6 late in the opening quarter, Owens scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns, from 2 yards out, to put FAMU (1-2, 1-0 MEAC) in front to stay, 13-7, with 2:10 left in the opening stanza.
He scored on a 7-yard run in the second period, then put the game out of reach in the third quarter with his 56-yard TD gallop that made the count 30-17.
Hampton coach Don Rose was complimentary of Owens but more concerned with his defensive performance.
"Missed tackles were crucial for us tonight," Rose said. "A shifty back like that has to be wrapped up. Many of the plays he made were the result of bad angles and missed tackles."
Hampton (0-3, 0-1 MEAC) opened the second half with a 70-yard drive, cutting the deficit to 23-17 on a 33-yard TD pass from Travis Champion to Andre Griffin with 14:01 left in the third period.
After an exchange of punts, FAMU got the ball back and drove 70 yards in five plays, with Owens bolting down the left sideline for a 56-yard touchdown and a 30-17 lead with 8:18 left in the quarter.
Hampton answered back with a 25-yard field goal by Taurean Durham, capping a 67-yard, nine-play drive for a 30-20 score with 3:33 left.
However, FAMU took possession and went on a 60-yard march that ate up nearly seven minutes, with Damien Fleming's 4-yard scoring toss to Lenworth Lennon extending the Rattlers' edge to 37-20 with 11:47 to play.
After exchanging turnovers, the Pirates fumbled a punt at the FAMU 19, and the Rattlers cashed in, as Fleming fired a 19-yard pass to tight end Michael Etheridge for a 44-20 lead with 4:31 left.
While Owens was the star of the game for FAMU with his 157 yards rushing, Champion was the Pirates' standout with 347 yards on 28-of-53 passing, with two TDs. Twan Mixson caught five passes for 100 yards.
Fleming was an efficient 21 of 28 for 184 yards, tossing three touchdowns.
The Rattlers owned a 468-411 edge in total offense, with FAMU leading in the ground game 253-85 while the Pirates "Air Raid" attack struck for 326 to 215 for FAMU.
Hampton also fell victim to penalties and turnovers, getting flagged 12 times for 164 yards, while committing two turnovers in the second half, when the game swung in FAMU's favor.
NOTE: Florida A&M announced a crowd of 17,871 at Bragg Memorial for their first home game without the fabled Marching 100 band since 1929. The band is sidelined for the season following the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion Jr. last November.