Senior running back Philip Sylvester ignited the Florida A&M Rattlers with his strongest performance of the season against the Savannah State University Tigers Saturday. He ran for more yards in the victory than he rushed for in three previous games this season.
Sylvester provided a giant lift for the Rattlers (3-3 overall, 2-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) as they defeated the Savannah State University Tigers (0-7 overall, 0-2 in the MEAC) 31-0 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
He finished the game with 153 yards on 18 rushing attempts and scored two touchdowns. Florida A&M had tremendous success behind Sylvester’s performance and the players appeared to be in sync throughout the ball game.
The Rattlers ran for a season-high 327 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor said his team did a great amount of preparation after being shutout in its home opener against the South Carolina State Bulldogs (4-2 overall, 2-1 in the MEAC).
“Nobody goes to practice to lose,” Taylor said. “It was a good game for us to get back, moving forward after a week off. It was good to come out and get a victory.”
The game was at a stalemate until Sylvester broke for a 69-yard touchdown in the beginning of the second quarter helped propel the Rattlers past the Tigers.
“It was a read play to the right, and it was funny because they knew what it was,” Sylvester said. “But when you do your assignment and have the right alignment, it doesn’t matter if they know the play or not; and we scored.”
Sylvester also broke another would-be touchdown late in the second quarter that was negated by a holding penalty. The Rattlers were still able to cap the drive off with a 29-yard field goal by junior kicker Trevor Scott to end the first half.
Sylvester was not the only rusher to get the ball across the pylon. The Rattlers continued running the ball in the second half as they scored three more rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lawrence also got in on the rushing game. He scored on an end-around play and burst past Tigers defenders for a 58-yard touchdown run with 12:15 left in the third quarter.
“We just needed to do something to loosen everybody up,” Taylor said. “So I told them to come out with a reverse, and they ran it to perfection.”
Lawrence ended the game with two rushes for 63 yards with a touchdown; he also caught a pass for 15 yards.
Sophomore Lavantae Page scored on an 11-yard touchdown run that extended the lead to 31-0 with 13:31 left in the fourth. He rushed for a total of 49 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
The Tigers were held to 164 yards of total offense and their freshman quarterback Antonio Bostick competed six passes for 36 yards with two interceptions. Savannah State’s offense was forced to punt on nine possessions.
Florida A&M sophomore quarterback Martin Ukpai said the Rattlers performed well in all facets of the game, and he said the Tigers have a quality program despite being winless this season.
“That was a good team we played,” Ukpai said. “Their record didn’t show it, but they came out with good energy.”
Ukpai completed eight passes for 64 yards; he also gained 63 rushing yards on eleven carries.
The Rattlers will resume action Saturday against the Norfolk State Spartans (2-4 overall, 1-3 in the MEAC) at 2 p.m. in Norfolk, Va.