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Level playing field nets FAMU first win

The venue was cavernous. The crowd, huge and raucous.

The opponent? Not so scary.

When Florida A&M took the field Saturday at the Georgia Dome in front of 67,712, it saw a team that, for a change, looked pretty much like it.

After road losses to Division I-A Illinois, Tulane and Temple, FAMU found I-AA Tennessee State to be a welcome sight. Almost as welcome as the result: a 21-15 win in the Atlanta Football Classic.

"It does make a difference," FAMU coach Billy Joe told the Tallahassee Democrat. "When we ran out on the field and saw Tennessee State, we could see that they are not a Division I-A team."

Neither are the Rattlers, who are not competing for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title this season because they were granted provisional I-A status by the NCAA. But the school's board of trustees postponed the move for scheduling and financial reasons, and FAMU is making the transition back to I-AA.

With no conference title to play for and fewer familiar foes, it's all about pride, which took a bit of a beating in the opening weeks. But thanks to sophomore receiver Roosevelt Kiser and senior quarterback Ben Dougherty, the Rattlers have a victory to build on.

Kiser caught 13 Dougherty passes for 181 yards, including fourth-quarter touchdowns of 22 and 37 yards. Dougherty finished 30-of-47 for 340 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

COKER HAS COMPANY: Miami coach Larry Coker wouldn't reveal if he was the one who voted the Hurricanes No. 1 in last week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

"Those votes are sealed in a mayonnaise jar," he said to the Miami Herald, joking. "I don't have to tell."

If it was Coker, he no longer is alone. After the Hurricanes (3-0) beat Houston 38-13 Thursday, they earned two No. 1 votes in this week's poll.

The votes could not have been due to Miami's performance. Quarterback Brock Berlin was 13-of-23 for 99 yards, lost a fumble and was sacked five times.

The Hurricanes face Georgia Tech (2-1) on Saturday in their first ACC road game. Fortunately for Berlin, the Yellow Jackets have just three sacks this season.