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Rattlers send Aggies to first loss, 21-7

North Carolina A&T entered Saturday's game against Florida A&M with an offense that averaged 471 yards a game. It left the Citrus Bowl with an offense that looked very average.

FAMU held the Aggies to 164 total yards _ 40 in the first half _ to produce a 21-7 victory. The Rattlers (5-1) are 3-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference while NC A&T (5-1) drops to 1-1.

The game pitted the nation's two top-ranked black college teams, the Aggies No. 1 and FAMU No. 2, but A&T appeared overrated and overmatched. Plant City natives Darrell Smith and Tracy Weldon played important roles for the Rattlers. Quarterback Weldon rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another. Smith, a strong safety, had a team-high 10 tackles against the Aggies' wing-T attack.

"We have played the best, Miami, so facing their offense was nothing to us," Smith said. "We don't think about how much they're averaging a game; we think how much are we going to give them."

While the Rattlers' defense collared the Aggies, Weldon's passing and scrambling created headaches for the A&T defense. He completed 7 of 18 passes for 148 yards and rushed for 30 yards, including touchdown runs of 1 and 6 yards.

"Their offense outplayed our defense, and their defense outplayed our offense," Aggies coach Bill Hayes said. "If we had any offense, we might have made a good game of it."

Weldon actually accounted for four touchdowns: three for his team and one for North Carolina A&T. He threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Davis to ice the game with 3:26 remaining and rushed for two in the first half to give FAMU a 14-7 halftime lead.

Weldon plunged in from the 1-yard line just before the first quarter ended to put FAMU up 7-0. Tailback Frankie Wilkins began the 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive, rushing for 27 yards on five consecutive carries. Two plays later, Weldon kept the drive alive by scrambling for 16 yards on fourth and 7 from the 30.

Two more Weldon keepers gave FAMU the lead with 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The Aggies tied the game 7-7 when A&T strong safety Alonza Barnett intercepted a Weldon pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown with 12:25 remaining in the second quarter.

"After the interception, coach said we still had to keep going," said Weldon, who played before a host of family and friends from Plant City. "It was a busted play, and we had to let that go and not think about it."

Weldon redeemed himself by putting together an eight-play, 69-yard drive just before the half. He scored on a dramatic 6-yard run around the left end, flying sideways into the end zone after being hit by an Aggie defender at the one.

On offense, A&T couldn't hit anything, including receivers. Aggies quarterbacks Maceo Bolin and David Russell didn't complete a pass in the first half and A&T's longest play from scrimmage was a 10-yard run by Bary Turner.

"Our defense dominated today," FAMU coach Ken Riley said. "They had a lot of misdirection, but everyone carried out his assignment. They stayed home and didn't look in the backfield."

Howard 26, Bethune-Cookman 7

WASHINGTON _ There were early signs that Bethune-Cookman's trip to the nation's capital would turn out as bad as it did Saturday, when opportunistic Howard University took advantage of Wildcat mistakes and rolled to a 26-7 triumph.

About 30 Wildcats were sick Friday and the jet taking the team to Washington National Airport was delayed in Durham, N.C., for maintenance. Saturday it was the Wildcats needed maintenance after the team's fifth consecutive loss without a win this season.

The 'Cats must win Saturday at South Carolina State to avoid the worst start in school history.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game that saw the 'Cats fall to 0-2 and the Bison (4-2) even its league record at 1-1 also included a melee that spread from one 20-yard line of Greene Field to the other 20. Both benches became embroiled in the rumble that began on Howard's sideline. The five-minute brawl resulted in the ejection of five players, three from B-CC. Later, two other Wildcats were tossed from the game.

B-CC trailed 9-7 when the brawl took place with 5:09 left in the second quarter. The fight appeared to take more out of the Wildcats, who yielded 17 third-quarter points on drives set up by two fumbles and a 31-yard punt return by Gary "Flea" Harrell.

The Wildcats contributed to their demise by failing to score from the Bison 5-yard line. It was the second lengthy drive that ended with no points for the 'Cats.

The game started just the way the Wildcats wanted, with a 10-play 71-yard scoring drive capped by Andre Howard's 1-yard TD run.

But Howard's defense, ranked seventh in the nation in fewest points allowed, yielded only that score. Howard recovered three B-CC fumbles and converted them to two touchdowns and a field goal.

_ Times correspondent Sean Kernan contributed to this report.