The Rattler defense is still looking to hit its stride after nine games into the season.
A 7-2 overall record (5-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) puts the Rattlers right behind the South Carolina State Bulldogs (8-1, 6-0 in the MEAC). No one on the team believes they have played their best football yet.
“There hasn’t been one game where the whole defense has been on the same page,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Alvis Graham. “Not for the whole 60 minutes. As soon as that comes, it’s really going to be a big day for us.”
Head Coach Joe Taylor looks for strength from “all three phases (offense, defense and special teams).” The special teams led by return man Leroy Vann continue to put points on the board and provide the offense with prime field position.
The offense is at the top of its game and at the top of the MEAC. With senior quarterback Curtis Pulley at the helm, the offense is ranked No. 1 in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense.
Defensively, the Rattlers are still looking to improve. They rank No. 6 in the conference in total defense with 326 yards per game allowed. The secondary, while capable of coming up with big plays and stops, has given up an average of 173.2 yards per game.
Only Delaware State (3-5, 2-3 in the MEAC) has a worse passing defense.
“We could be the best defense in the country, we just have to stop making those mental errors,” junior defensive back Qier Hall said.
The defense shows flashes of brilliance. Cornerbacks Fabian Wilson and Curtis Holcomb both picked off Jacory Harris in a 48-16 loss against the then 11th ranked University of Miami Hurricanes. Hall himself had a 44-yard interception return against the North Carolina A&T Aggies.
When it matters most, the defense shows up big.
The past two games against Morgan State and North Carolina A&T have been won by defensive stops in overtime and the fourth quarter.
“[Taylor] says we have to play 60 minutes and we haven’t done that yet,” Hall said. “When that happens there will be a goose egg up there.”
The defense will have another 60 minutes to prove they can handle any threat in the MEAC at 1 p.m. Saturday against the Hampton University Pirates. The Pirates (4-5, 2-3 in the MEAC) have the fourth best offensive attack in the MEAC.
“We’ve been trying all week to make sure we’re on the same page,” Graham said. “We’re going to get ready [for Hampton] and see what happens.”