Offense and defense struggle in opening day shutout

MIAMI | Senior running back Philip Sylvester kept his legs churning until the end, but his efforts were not enough to save the Florida A&M Rattlers from a 45-0 beating at the hands of the much faster University of Miami Hurricanes.

A crowd of 53,674 gathered at Sun Life Stadium in Miami to watch the Rattlers take on the Hurricanes for the second time in as many years. The No. 13 team in the nation wasted no time in handing the Rattlers their worst defeat since the team’s last trip to Miami.

Sylvester and first-year starting quarterback Martin Ukpai failed to ignite the offense, rushing and passing for 50 and 58 yards, respectively. Sylvester called the game a “learning process,” as he continues to adjust to an offensive line with one returning starter from last year.

“For the last two years we were the leading offense in the conference,” he said. “We lost a few offensive linemen and we have a new quarterback and we’re just trying to get back to where we were last year.

Ukpai, after moving the ball well in the first quarter, threw his first interception as the starting quarterback for the Rattlers in the second quarter. He completed only five of 11 passes and was sacked eight times before being pulled midway through the fourth.

“It’s going to be tough with four new starters in there,” offensive lineman Chris Sands said. “But, you know, we just go out there and compete every day. This game is only going to help us. This is the best d-line in the country, everyone says.”

The offense was not completely stagnant as a few drives led to first downs and one earned the Rattlers a trip to the red zone.

That lone red zone trip ended with a sack for a loss of 13 yards on third down, immediately followed by a missed 52-yard Trevor Scott field goal.

“We’ve got to have more protection for our quarterback,” Taylor said. “Their defensive ends just kept pressure on the outside, coming from the outside the whole night. That’s really the big deal.”

Taylor stressed taking away positives from the Rattlers’ opening day match up against the Hurricanes. He said after facing the strongest opponent the team was likely to face this season, it could only improve.

“I feel like we got better with every play,” Taylor said. “Every play meant more experience.”

Defensively, the Rattlers had no response for Heisman-hopeful quarterback Jacory Harris. Harris was nearly perfect before getting pulled in the second half, completing 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

“Well you know that offense is a great offense,” senior defensive back Qier Hall said. “They’re led by a Heisman candidate and he led the offense great tonight. But we just missed a lot of assignments tonight.”

The lone bright spot for the Rattlers’ defense was Hall’s third quarter interception.

Delaware State is next on the Rattlers’ four-game road trip. The entire team agreed it could take lessons away from this loss and better prepare for its date with the Hornets Sept. 11.

“There’s nothing that can hurt us with this,” Sands said. “We’ll just go back and watch film and see our mistakes. That means we can learn together.”

GAME NOTES: Eddie Battle saw action in the fourth quarter and fumbled his first snap. He did not throw a pass; Lavante Page got in in the fourth and finished with four rushes for 35 yards and no touchdowns; Former Miami and NFL stars Michael Irving and Edgerrin James were in attendance for the game; Jacory Harris moves into eighth all-time on Miami’s career touchdown pass list.