The Florida A&M University football team entered Saturday night’s contest without several key defensive starters: linebackers Vernon Wilder, Michael McMillan, and Dannel Shepard and defensive end Tyrone McGriff.
However, the head count for injuries did not just stop there.
It went on to include quarterback Albert Chester II, defensive back Jason Beach, defensive linemen Albert Williams and Christopher Wooten, linebacker Victoriano Arboleda, running backs Mykel Benson and Demitric Henry and long snapper Doug Peeler.
Although some injuries were minor and players were allowed to return to the field, the trainers said they were surprised to see the number of injuries on the team.
“This is about the most injuries I have seen in one game,” said Leatirce Dixon, a senior student assistant athletic trainer. “Most of them were minor, but it was still a handful.”
The Rattlers were forced to start nine freshmen against one of their toughest opponents.
Head coach Rubin Carter said it put the young players in a difficult spot.
“They went in and tried to give it the best effort they could. They just didn’t have the experience they needed to play with a very potent offense,” Carter said.
Wilder, the team’s leading tackler, has been under treatment for a week due to ankle and leg injuries.
He sat out and watched as the Hampton University Pirates compiled 410 yards of total offense in his absence.
“It was tough. I knew my team needed me,” Wilder said. “We were going against one of the best match ups. I wanted to prove that I am one of the best linebackers around. I let my team down.”
Beach was one of the few players that returned to action. However, Chester sat out the entire second half due to an ankle injury.
“It was hard to watch my teammates go down like that. I wish I could be out there to help them fight to the end,” Chester said.
Joe Taylor, the Pirates’ head coach, said that part of the team’s advantage came from the good health and performance of running back Alonzo Coleman, who scored four touchdowns.
“When he’s healthy, he’s awesome,” Taylor said.
Carter said that the most hurtful loss came from the defense, the soul of the team, and he would like to see these defenders return.
“The linebacker core is usually the heart of the defense, and we skipped a few beats in that area,” he said.
The Rattlers will now attempt to nurse themselves this week in an effort to prepare for their season finale against Bethune-Cookman College.
“Losing 59-7 gives us a lot of motivation for next week. If we don’t come out with fire, something is wrong with us as a team,” Wilder said.
The banged-up FAMU squad looks to put all their injuries behind and get ready to take on its rival in the Florida Classic Saturday.
“I will hope that we can try to get at least majority of our players back – minus one or two – and allow ourselves a chance going into the biggest game of the year,” Carter said.