It’s hard to compete with the world’s largest marching band during their homecoming performance, but this year’s showcase was highlighted by the aggressive and intense drive of the Florida A&M University defense.
Headed by leading tackler, redshirt sophomore Vernon Wilder, the Rattlers’ performance recalled the saying “defense wins games and offense sells tickets.” With 13 tackles and half a tackle for loss, the linebacker from Miami gave the crowd another solid performance and made game-changing plays when it was needed.
Wilder said the Rattlers’ defense came out to play more than just a game, they were there to play “football like the old FAMU.”
The Famuan: What was the difference in the performance of the defense between the last games and now?
Wilder: Defense been playing pretty good for the last couple games. Right now we’re getting better at stopping the runs. We just have to focus on eliminating the big plays. We’re playing with a lot more energy and that’s the big difference – our intensity and energy.
The Famuan: Were there any particular keys the defense used against the Morgan State offense?
Wilder: The (offensive line). Reading the O-line keys and following the ball. I just watched films and know their tendency, and I try to get to the ball as fast as I can.
The Famuan: What did the defense work on during practice to prepare for this game?
Wilder: We practiced hard every week. It was mainly concentrating on wrapping up on tackling circuit, getting into the best shape that we can and running to the ball.
The Famuan: One of the things the defense is supposed to be working on is stopping runs? What has the team been doing to work toward that goal?
Wilder: We run a gap control defense. And if we don’t control our gaps it will open up seams in the defense. During practice, we worked on getting into our gaps and not getting reached out of our gaps.
The Famuan: How was the preparation without junior Tyrone McGriff or senior Christopher Wooten on the line this game?
Wilder: It was hard. They’re big players on our defense and without them we all have to step up our game.
The Famuan: What was going through your mind during the last couple of series of the game knowing you had to stop the Bears offense?
Wilder: We couldn’t let them score. We knew we had to stop them. It was by any means necessary.
The Famuan: What was your mindset on that fourth-and-one play late in the game?
Wilder: They couldn’t get in. That’s what was on my mind. I was telling them they couldn’t get it. That was for the game right there. It wasn’t happening.
The Famuan: How does if feel to win on homecoming?
Wilder: Feels good. Playing in front of all the alumni and the students, we showed them that we can play and we’re getting back to the old FAMU.
The Famuan: Can you comment on the team’s attitude after a win like this?
Wilder: The team mindset is positive. Everybody’s excited we’re 5 -3. Now we’re just concentrating on getting into the playoffs. I think things are good right now. A couple teams lost that we needed to. So it’s looking up for us right now.