Road-worn defense ready for Bulldogs

An infusion of home crowd energy may be just what the seventh-ranked Rattlers defense needs after a four-game road trip that included double-digit losses to the Miami Hurricanes and the Tennessee State Tigers.

The Rattlers (2-2, 2-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic conference) are in the unfamiliar position of having a lower-ranked defense without a top-tier offense. Defensively, the Rattlers are ranked seventh in yards allowed and eighth in rushing defense.

“All of us have a job,” linebacker Alvis Graham said. “We have a defensive scheme. Individually we have to pull it off, do our job.”

Offensively the team is ranked sixth in total offense and fourth in scoring offense, both lows for the team since head coach Joe Taylor took over two seasons ago.

The time away from home took its toll on Florida A&M on both ends of the football.

The offense went to work against Tennessee State without senior running back Phillip Sylvester and a host of offensive linemen.

“The objective really is to have a balance,” Taylor said about the offense. “Sylvester probably could have played last week, but we thought it would be smarter to save him for this week so he’d be 100 percent.”

The Rattlers’ defense left the game dealing with questions about intensity.

“We have a 24-hour rule,” said defensive back Qier Hall. “After the game we can contemplate on the game that just passed. After that Sunday we move on to the next week because we know we’ve got another game coming.”

The 24-hour rule means putting away a frustrating out-of-conference schedule and focusing on the positive aspect of the road trip – the Rattlers are undefeated in MEAC play.

The unblemished conference record keeps the Rattler in contention for the MEAC title and an eventual playoff berth. Thinking ahead, past the threat of current MEAC champion South Carolina State, would be a mistake according to Hall.

The Bulldogs run a similar style offense to Tennessee State.

Despite an unsuccessful outing against the Tigers, Hall and Graham said he and the rest of his teammates are preparing for South Carolina State in a similar way.

“We got to prepare like last week,” he said. “Tennessee State and South Carolina State run similar stretch-play zone plays. So we’re really just preparing the same way. We were physical, we just weren’t in our gaps sometimes.”