Senior running back Preston Brown seemingly took all the air out of the building with his first touch of the game. Brown scored a 71-yard touchdown for the Tennessee State Tigers on the team’s second play from scrimmage.
Brown’s early score set the stage for this year’s Atlanta Football Classic in which the Florida A&M Rattlers (2-2 overall, 2-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) lost to the Tigers (2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference) Saturday in the Georgia Dome 29-18.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak in the Classic for the Rattlers. The last time Florida A&M suffered a loss at the hands of Tennessee State was in 2001 when the Rattlers lost to the Tigers 27-7.
Brown’s 71-yard TD scamper was not the sole reason for the loss, but it was indicative of the type of performance the Rattlers had in the game.
The Rattlers allowed 304 rushing yards and 109 passing yards in the game, while the Tigers averaged 6.7 yards per gain.
Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor said his team could not match the intensity and focus that the Tigers came out with.
“From an energy standpoint they played extremely well,” Taylor said. “We just got outplayed, no excuses. They played well and they deserved to win the ball game.”
Taylor gave Tennessee State credit for the victory, and he was impressed by how the team executed.
Brown rushed for a career-high 233 yards on 28 carries in the victory Saturday. He set a record for most rushing yards in an Atlanta Classic game and he took home game MVP honors.
The Rattlers were not able to stop Tennessee State’s offense and they were ineffective in moving the ball against the Tigers’ defense. Florida A&M had a total of 199 yards in which 175 were gained through the air.
Sophomore receiver T.J. Lawrence said his team had difficulty adjusting to Tennessee State’s defensive schemes and at times, the offense was out of sync.
“They really mixed up their coverage, Lawrence said. “I felt like (our) receivers were getting open, but everything was crashing down and everything went (Tennessee State’s) way.”
Lawrence had three receptions and a game-high 63 receiving yards against the Tigers.
Sophomore quarterback Martin Ukpai said the Tigers played very sound defensively. “I think their defensive line played pretty well,” Ukpai said.
He also added that he forced a few throws, and he said everything will be rectified once his team watches the Tennessee State game film.
Ukpai completed 15 passes out of 31 attempts and threw for 173 yards in the loss.
The Rattlers had some success once they were near the end zone. Sophomore running back Lonvontae Page scored two touchdowns in the Classic. Both scores were from two yards out and he had 10 yards on six carries.
Taylor said the game against the Tigers had both positive and negative aspects. He said his players are still adapting to each other and he commended the Tigers for their efforts.
“This is still a process and we didn’t quit,” Taylor said. “We take our hats off to Tennessee State.”
The Rattlers will host the South Carolina State Bulldogs (2-1 overall) Saturday at 6 p.m. in Florida A&M’s home opener at Bragg Memorial Stadium.