HAMPTON — All season long, Hampton University football coach Donovan Rose saw flashes here and there.
One game, the offense looked decent. One game, the defense did.
But never, not throughout the first nine weeks of the season, had the Pirates put it all together. Saturday afternoon, on a soggy track with emotions running high, they did.
Behind a power running game that two quarterbacks spearheaded and a defense that allowed virtually nothing all day, Hampton spoiled Joe Taylor's homecoming with a 25-0 win over Florida A&M at Armstrong Stadium.
To say it was the Pirates' best day this year would be unnecessary.
"I told the guys, we've had spurts," Rose said. "But we never had a game where everybody played well. We wanted to do this against a team like (FAMU). They have a great program, and this is something to build from.
"To me, it wasn't about (FAMU). I know they probably feel disappointed because this probably took them out of the playoff hunt. But it was about us. Our guys have been up and down all year. I told them to relax and have fun with it."
Rest assured, the Pirates (5-5, 3-4 MEAC) had plenty of fun. Before a season-low crowd of 1,931 — nearly 15,000 short of capacity — HU dominated a team that is ranked 22nd in The Sports Network's FCS poll and had an outside shot of making the playoffs.
The stat sheet reflected that domination. The Pirates had 464 total yards, 341 coming from their running game. Both those figures are season highs.
Quarterbacks David Legree and Herbert Bynes combined for 123 yards passing and 143 more rushing.
Defensively, HU posted its second shutout of the season by holding the Rattlers to 184 yards. The Pirates had three sacks, allowed four third-down conversions in 12 attempts and forced four turnovers.
"Take nothing away from what the Pirates did," said Taylor, FAMU's head coach and the head coach at HU from 1992-2007. "They played hard today. They played with a lot of energy."
The Rattlers played shorthanded. Quarterback Curtis Pulley, who averages 299 total yards a game, injured his groin on FAMU's second possession. He rotated with backup Eddie Battle the rest of the first half but didn't play after that.
Also, receivers Isaac West and Kevin Elliott were hurt in the first quarter and didn't return.
"When the top guys on your offense go down," Taylor said, "we didn't have the character to fight that off."
In being shut out for the first time in 21 years, FAMU (7-3, 5-2) ran only two offensive plays in HU territory during the first half. Both, a fumble and an interception by Battle, resulted in turnovers.
The closest the Rattlers got to scoring came on their final possession, when they reached the HU 21. But the clock ran out to preserve the shutout.
"It was a great win for us," said defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, who had two tackles for losses. "We've had so many ups and downs this year. We'd win one, then we'd lose one. But we got focused for this game.
"We're playing for Hampton pride. It was here, and it's still here."
The rotation of Legree and Bynes was too much for Florida A&M. Together, they had rushed for only 43 net yards coming into the game.
But Saturday, Legree ran 14 times for 87 yards — which included a 15-yard touchdown — and Bynes had five carries for 56 yards.
"We tried to mix it up and (get) in formations they haven't seen," Rose said. "We tried to make them spread it out and take everybody out of the box. Our quarterbacks, one (Legree) is 230 (pounds) and the other (Bynes) is about 240. We just told them to run the ball.
"One time, I think Herb ran, and I was seeing flashes of (Florida's Tim) Tebow. That was part of the game plan, to spread them out and let the quarterbacks run it."
The game plan worked. In fact, pretty much everything did.
HAMPTON 25, FLORIDA A&M 0
06613—25Second quarterHamp—Legree 15 run (kick failed), :25. Third quarterHamp—S.Robinson 2 run (run failed), 8:18. Fourth quarterHamp—I.Thomas 50 pass from Bynes (Blanchard kick), 14:03. Hamp—S.Robinson 1 run (kick failed), 4:25. A:1,931.
TEAM STATSFAMHAMPFirst downs1425Rushes-yards27-11152-341Passing73123Comp-Att-Int14-25-210-16-0Return Yards2532Punts-Avg.7-45.35-42.4Fumbles-lost2-21-0Penalties-yards8-5814-130Time of poss25:1234:48Rushing: Florida A&M, Ukpai 5-48, Sylvester 10-45, Battle 7-22, Benson 1-3, Rocker 1-1, Pulley 3-(minus 8). Hampton, S.Robinson 17-150, Legree 14-87, Bynes 5-56, Coker 10-50, Mullen 1-1, I.Thomas 1-0, team 1-(minus 1), McCloude 3-(minus 2). Passing: Florida A&M, Battle 8-16-2-32, Pulley 5-7-0-22, Ukpai 1-2-0-19. Hampton, Legree 7-10-0-66, Bynes 3-6-0-57. Receiving: Florida A&M, A.Smith 4-34, Knight 2-26, West 2-18, Sylvester 2-(minus 8), Carter 1-3, Elliott 1-1, Benson 1-0, Henry 1-(minus 1). Hampton, I.Thomas 7-106, Hicks 2-8, Coker 1-9.