Rattlers suffer disappointing loss as momentum fades in third quarter

History does not lie. The Rattlers always need the first game to get it together.

They have lost the past two season openers; and now, this one makes the third.

However, they have walked away with winning seasons the past three years. I sat at WCTV in our conference room watching the game on our plasma and I also watched my beloved team throw a game away.

For the past two years in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge the MEAC has left the football field with bragging rights.

The South Carolina State Bulldogs took the game in 2005 and the 2007 MEAC Champion Hampton Pirates took the honor in 2006.

The Rattlers were unable to keep the MEAC winning streak alive Saturday, playing in front of a little more than 30,000 spectators at the Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., and a national audience on the ESPN Classic channel.

FAMU gave the game away to the Southern University Jaguars with a 33-27 loss in the 3rd Annual MEAC-SWAC Challenge.

I say they gave away the game because I know they have the ability to end number one in the MEAC but Saturday, I could not tell.

Throughout the game the Rattlers dropped the ball, literally and figuratively. The Rattler offense could not keep the ball and turnovers plagued the offense. Four times to be exact.

The quarterbacks were also not at their best with Albert Chester II still battling a shoulder injury and Leon Camel nursing his foot. The Rattler defense did not fare any better, allowing the Jaguars to amass 435 offensive yards.

Penalties, inevitably, led to the Rattlers downfall. Every time a yellow flag was thrown, which ever side of the ball the Rattlers happened to be on, it seemed the penalty was against them. The Rattlers waved goodbye to 95 yards in penalties alone through holding calls and false starts.

But not to worry Rattler fans, the first half of the game was promising.

Once Albert Chester II left in the first quarter due to complications with his shoulder, senior walk-on Leon Camel ran on to the field and provided the spark the Rattlers needed.

In his first play of the game Camel scrambled for 9 yards to the end zone for the first Rattler touchdown of the game. Camel ignited a fire storm by leading two more touchdown drives. Philip Sylvester, tailback, capped one with a 45-yard run. And redshirt sophomore Javares Knight was on the receiving end of a 40-yard pass from Camel for the other. Sylvester would score another touchdown and finish with 141 yards rushing.

The Rattlers showed their youth, however, down the stretch. Nursing a 21-10 lead at halftime, the freshmen and sophomore dominated roster allowed the Jaguars to sneak back into the game.

The Jaguars caught fire and scored three touchdowns on their first four possessions after halftime, putting them in the lead 33-20. Southern kept their 13-point lead well into the fourth quarter. Even though the clock was running out, and the Rattlers were taking too long to get the plays off, the Rattlers managed to put seven more points on the scoreboard before the game ended. However, it was not enough for a victory.

Now it is time for the transformation the Rattlers usually make between the first and second game. Despite the initial set back, the Rattlers’ journey to the MEAC Championship can still be fulfilled.

The Rattlers have 10 games left. MEAC opponent Delaware State, a 34-14 winner last year, is up next Saturday for the first home game. The Rattlers must make this one count.