The good news is the Florida A&M University football team identified its problem.
The bad news is they have struggled to fix it.
After a 28-21 loss to South Carolina State on Saturday, the Rattlers figured out their penchant for slow starts and exciting finishes wouldn’t carry them the entire season.
The team was left scratching its head when asked how it would accomplish what it hasn’t been able to do much of the season – and fast.
“I don’t really know how we are going to do it. Do you have any suggestions? If so, you can e-mail them to me,” said senior defensive tackle Chris Wooten.
The team has found itself down at halftime in each of its last five games.
Despite the first-half struggles, the Rattlers managed to string together comeback victories against Howard, Winston-Salem State and Tennessee State.
The Rattlers almost pulled out another victory Saturday with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. But the team’s luck expired with the loss.
“Coach said if we continue to play the dangerous football we have been playing we won’t always be able to crawl out,” Wooten said.
Some of the team’s problems stem from mental mistakes. The team said it could have won games had it not been for its own blunders.
“We pretty much beat ourselves from penalties and not getting off the field on third down,” Wooten said.Coach Carter said the team’s woes lead back to energy and effort.
“We have to start the game with energy, enthusiasm, effort, and to simply start the game right,” Carter said.
“In terms of energy, we can’t save it. Every play is critical to give max effort.”
The Rattlers’ defense also struggled to stop the run last week. Big run plays plagued the defense as SCS running backs DeShawn Baker and William Ford combined for 285 yards.
“Big plays really hurt our defense. It was important to stay within our schemes and stay in our gaps,” Carter said of the defensive struggles.
Despite the team’s struggles, there were some bright spots. Freshman running back Demitric Henry led the offense with 79 yards on 14 carries.
“He adds a new dimension to our offense. He has definitely earned the right to compete for playing time. He really took advantage of getting as many carries as he did,” Carter said, referring to Henry.
Redshirt sophomore running back Anthony Edwards is expected to return this week after recovering from injury, but Henry could still see action.
“It is great to have that one-two punch at running back,” Carter said.
The team will head into Norfolk State hoping to continue its unbeaten streak against the Spartans.
“We’re going to go to Norfolk and impose our will on Norfolk for four full quarters,” Wooten said.
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jason Beach said one of the keys to the game will be the ability for the defense to capitalize on turnovers.
“We do want to score sometimes to make it easier on the offense. We feed off of each other,” Beach said.
The team hopes to regain the spark that helped it win three games before the loss against the Bulldogs.
“We’re not going to throw the season away after one loss. We are still competing for the MEAC,” said senior offensive lineman Dan Parrish.
The Rattler offense will also look to use junior wide receiver Willie Hayward, who caught six passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Norfolk State hosts FAMU Saturday at 1 p.m.
After tasting victory for three games prior to Saturday’s loss, The Rattlers are hungry to get back on the field.
“We know what it is like to win three games in a row. And we just want that feeling back,” Hayward said.