Florida A&M’s 31-17 win over the Morgan State Bears Saturday win means the Rattlers now control their destiny as they hunt for a conference championship.
After the victory, head coach Joe Taylor spoke about the adversity his team faced on their way to a homecoming win.
“I told the guys at the end that we were very proud of them,” Taylor said. “That was a big conference win for us. It puts us at 4-1 and very much in control of our own destiny. I felt we overcame some adversity. We had some guys go out of the game early. Some people came in and stepped up.”
The Rattlers had a team record 21 penalties for a total of 157 yards on the day. Having to overcome penalty yards is something the Rattlers aren’t used to, and Taylor said he was proud of the continued effort.
“In no way does 21 penalties define the kind of techniques we’re teaching,” Taylor said. “I’m so proud that even though the flags kept coming, we kept playing.”
Sophomore cornerback Jerral Stewart was among the players to step up for the Rattlers in the second half with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown. Stewart’s big play bailed out a defense that allowed the Bears to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
After Stewart’s interception put the Rattlers ahead 24-17, senior running back Philip Sylvester broke away from the Morgan State defense and took the rock 88 yards for the score. It was another 100-plus yard day for him and he was just eight yards short of a 200-yard game.
Also limiting his mistakes was sophomore quarterback Martin Ukpai, who racked up 130 yards on just five completions. One of those passes went to sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lawrence in the first quarter for a 52-yard touchdown and opening score of the game. It was the first touchdown pass for Ukpai in four games.
It will be important for the Rattlers to continue their winning form, as they look ahead to a road contest with North Carolina A&T.
The Aggies suffered a 67-17 loss to Bethune-Cookman last week, and are hungry for a MEAC win with a conference record of 1-5.
Big play threat
Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lawrence added another large play to his resume with his 52-yard reception for a touchdown.
He also returned a punt for 47 yards, putting the Rattlers in field position.
Lawrence has been a consistent threat in the slot on on punt returns, even lending his talents to the running game. Two weeks ago he rushed for a 58-yard score against Savannah State.
Lawrence is second on the team in all-purpose yards with 544.