The Florida A&M football team finished seventh in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Rattlers (4-7, 4-4 MEAC) entered the season with high hopes, boasting a talented defense and an offense that had the weapons to compete each week, but this season did not go as planned.
“This season was disappointing given the amount of talent we had,” said Vaughn Wilson, interim sports information director. “I’ve never seen a season in which so many unfortunate events took place. There isn’t one thing you can point to. There were many factors that contributed to this season’s outcome.”
The Rattlers’ inability to close out tight games is one thing that can be pointed to. Five of the team’s seven losses came by a margin of seven points or less, three of which the team had a chance to win as time expired.
Padric Scott, a first-year graduate biology student from Tallahassee, was one of the defensive leaders for this year’s team.
“We fell behind too quickly and dug ourselves in holes,” Scott said. “It all comes down to execution for any football team, and that lack of execution prevented the quick starts and strong closeouts we needed at times.”
Although FAMU accumulated five more first downs and out gained its opponents in yardage by 414, the team scored six less touchdowns than the 32 it gave up this season.
The Rattlers also struggled on defense early in the season, giving up more than 400 yards of total offense in four of the first five games.
The Rattlers’ inability to score touchdowns was most evident in the red zone. The offense, while efficient, often stalled on late-game drives inside its opponents’ 20-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Damien Fleming led the passing attack with 2,157 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions. Lenworth Lennon led the team in receptions with 71 catches for 699 yards and four touchdowns. Travis Harvey racked up 808 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on 65 receptions.
The Rattlers’ defense, led by senior linebacker Brandon Hepburn and junior defensive back Jonathon Pillow, proved to be solid. Hepburn had 86 tackles on the season, and Pillow had 66 tackles.
Chase Varnadore and Travis Harvey made the first-team All-MEAC squad. Fleming, Hepburn, Scott and running back James Owens made the second team.
The biggest news of the season was the abrupt retirement of former head coach Joe Taylor in week 10 of the season. Taylor is the MEAC’s all-time winningest coach and has served as head coach at other universities such as Howard, Virginia Union University and Hampton University. Taylor released his book, “Winning Is An Inconvenience,” on Thanksgiving Day.
It is uncertain whether interim head coach Earl Holmes will return to lead the Rattlers next season. The head coaching position is open and the athletic department will hold interviews that are open to all qualified persons to determine who FAMU’s next head football coach will be.
“Whoever comes in must be able to not only maintain the level of excellence coach Taylor has achieved in graduation rates and player discipline but also implement a system that excites our talented players,” Wilson said. “He has to be a players’ coach.”