The Florida A&M University Orange and Green game gave young players a chance to prove themselves in a game situation Saturday at Bragg Memorial Stadium. The scrimmage ended in 27-0 shutout with the green team coming out on top.
While some players used the opportunity to prove their worth as members of the team, others showed they need more time to develop under center before head coach Joe Taylor could throw them into battle in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
This became obvious when neither offense was able to put a touchdown on the board until the fourth quarter.
“Overall you put a game together like this to kind of see where you are,” Taylor said. “It is important at this point to have your defense hopefully playing stronger. The only thing I saw offensively was we had the missed snaps. You just can’t do those kind of things.”
The green team, composed primarily of potential starters, put the quarterback battle between redshirt senior Eddie Battle and redshirt sophomore Martin Ukpai at the forefront. Both quarterbacks took snaps and were left in charge of full drives. Both quarterbacks could operate with near impunity. Touches counted as a tackles and flinches toward the quarterback in the pocket counted as sacks.
Ukpai led the team to two field goals with an efficient mix of passes and runs. Ukpai, one of the heroes from 2009’s Florida Classic, was nine of 12 passing with an interception on the two yard line.
“I feel like I could have performed a lot better,” Ukpai said. “My main thing was just trying to move the ball. I moved it pretty well at times. Other times I would miss a couple snaps here and there and that would really mess up my rhythm.”
Battle was the only Florida A&M quarterback to not throw an interception. Overall he was four of 10 passing for 88 yards. The senior put together two impressive scoring drives against the Orange squad, both ending in touchdowns.
“I think it was pretty good,” Battle said of his performance, “but you always get better. You never settle. It was a big motivation to come out of halftime and pick up the tempo, pick of the offense. The offense depends on the quarterback. I think my second half was a little more energetic.”
Austin Trainer, a true freshman and the final quarterback, gave the least impressive showing. Trainer threw for three interceptions against Florida A&M’s first team defense. Trainer never looked confortable in the pocket and defensive backs Anthony Shutt and Alexander Ajayi made him pay.
“Right now we’re working on ball skills,” Shutt said. “We’re all competing at that level right now, we’re all compete for that first spot at safety. We’ve just been working hard every day at practice. We just want to keep the intensity up.”
Taylor rated his offense the lowest out of the three phases for the game, but stressed that he saw plenty of good things from his quarterbacks and running backs. Taylor was most impressed, however, with his first team defense.
“We put the challenge to the defense coming in to the spring and they have really stepped it up,” Taylor said.
Shutt’s interception resulted in a touchdown, the first of the game by either team. That touchdown opened up a 13-0 lead and took confidence away from an orange team trying to find their footing against the first team.
Taylor said he would have to go back and watch film from the game to make final decisions, but overall he likes where the team is now. Compared to this point last year, Taylor said this team is farther along than his team one year ago.
With six practices left to go, Taylor said he wants to see continued improvement in his defense, and hopes to name his future starter before the end of spring.