For Donovan Rose and Joe Taylor, a MEAC reunion of a different sort

This week, they are no longer mentor and student, but fierce adversaries.

Donovan Rose was defensive coordinator during Joe Taylor‘s 17-year tenure as Hampton head coach. When Taylor left for A&M in 2008, Rose took over on the Pirates’ bench. Now the two teams face off in a game with championship implications for one, and pride on the line for the other.

Familiar doesn’t exactly breed contempt. But there’s no let up, either.

“I know what he’s going to do,” Rose said this week. “He’s not going to fool me.”

Rose will have to figure out a way this Saturday to stop celebrated Rattlers tailback Philip Sylvester, playing in his final home game. Sylvester needs 284 yards to move past Rashard Pompey’s 3,006 career yards (2002-05) for No. 3 all-time at FAMU. And he’ll have plenty to play for: Florida A&M (6-3, 5-1) can still claim the MEAC title, with wins over Hampton and then Bethune-Cookman at the 31st Florida Classic.

“It still comes back to taking care of each play, each game and not looking down the road,” Taylor said, shrugging off the championship implications for now. “We’ve got to take care of business on a daily basis. The key is play to win, and that means taking care of your responsibility.”

Rose said he expects a low-scoring affair, as Hampton’s No. 7 defense lines up against a Rattlers offense ranked 90th. (“Do the math,” Rose said.) Meanwhile, FAMU is starting a third-stringer under center, and the Pirates’ quarterback situation also remains in flux — with both starter Herbert Bynes and backup David Legree injured.

[Florida A&M may have just found its own Tom Brady on the bench.]

Hampton memorably knocked the Rattlers out of title contention with a 25-0 blowout last season, but FAMU is still 11-7 all-time against the Pirates — and has won four out of the last five games.

“I know he’s going to be vindictive,” Rose said of his old boss. “It’s going to be a physical game.”

The Pirates (5-4, 4-2 MEAC) are effectively out of the league race, after last weekend’s sloppy loss to Bethune-Cookman. A Wildcat team that leads the nation with a plus-21 turnover forced Hampton into five, including four lost fumbles. But a win here not only spoils FAMU’s season, it could provide important momentum for next year.

“I’d like for us to put another goose egg on the board,” Rose said, “but we just want the win.”

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