The Florida A&M Rattlers (2-8, 2-4 MEAC) suffered another devastating home loss, 34-17 to the South Carolina State University Bulldogs (7-3 , 5-1 MEAC) Saturday afternoon at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
For the seniors, it was an especially bitter night as they took the field for the last home game of the season in a clash with the conference-leading Bulldogs.
Interim head coach Corey Fuller bluntly expressed his thoughts on the loss.
“They were tougher than us and you can’t have that many turnovers in football and expect to win,” Fuller said. “They’re [SCSU] a good team, they stay disciplined, they stay sound, they keep doing what they’re doing and they believe in what they’re doing, there’s a lot of work to be done here.”
The beginning of the game was filled with miscues from the Rattlers’ offense. During the Rattlers’ second drive, senior quarterback Damien Fleming threw an interception that resulted in a touchdown made by redshirt junior tight end Temarrick Hemingway for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs continued to dominate the first quarter by adding a field goal, while the Rattlers struggled to convert on 3rd down.
However, momentum began to shift in favor of the Rattlers during the second quarter.
Success on the ground lead to the first points for the Rattlers in the form of a Fleming touchdown pass. The ensuing drive the Bulldogs fumbled the ball which put the ball back in Rattler possession.
Ten points scored in the second quarter brought the lead within reach for the Rattlers going into halftime.
Junior linebacker Akil Blount, who had a fumble recovery, was still unimpressed with his team’s performance.
“As a defense you have to be disciplined, every play, every down or else you’re going to pay for it,” Blount said. “And we paid for it.”
Blount also didn’t look to place blame on the offense’s shortcomings. Many of the defense’s stops weren’t met with points on the other side of the ball.
“At the end of the day you just have to stay positive,” Blount said. “As a defense if it does get to that point, you just have to create turnovers and put the offense in a good position to score.”
The third quarter showed moments of hope for the Rattlers. Devonte “Terry” Johnson, a senior defensive back intercepted the ball and netted a 59-yard return. Yet the offense failed to convert the turnover into points.
The Bulldogs responded with strong drive of their own. Starting at the own one-yard line they marched down the field to score a touchdown taking a 27-10 lead.
Rattlers scored a 10-yard touchdown by sophomore tight end Zachary Webster from Fleming. Those would be the last points for the Rattlers in Bragg for 2014.
Missed opportunities, penalties and a subsequent fumble by Fleming late in the fourth put the nail in the coffin. The Bulldogs proved to be too much to handle.
Fleming was pensive when reflecting on the game and his time at Bragg.
“My last home game, it’s kind of a tough way to go out the whole season period has just been disappointing.” Fleming said. “I just felt like we were beating ourselves, we would be one block away or one man would make a mistake.”
The Rattlers hope to turn things around next week as they take on the Delaware State University Hornets in Dover, Delaware.