Rattlers shutout by Bulldogs in home opener

The Florida A&M football team (2-3, 2-1 in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference) received its second shutout of the season, with a 19-0 home-opening loss to the South Carolina State Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 in the MEAC). 

The last time Florida A&M was shutout at Bragg Memorial Stadium, was in 1987 against Tuskegee University when the Rattlers lost 23-0.

South Carolina State gave Florida A&M its first MEAC defeat and second consecutive loss of the season.

In addition, the Bulldogs keep their winning streak alive, defeating the Rattlers for the eighth consecutive game since 2002.

South Carolina State kicker Blake Erickson put the Bulldogs over the edge, going 4-4, kicking a field goal in each quarter to lead Bulldogs to victory.

Senior quarterback Malcolm Long would later score for the Bulldogs before Erickson’s last field goal of the evening. Long went 21-for-33 for 206 yards with a score and one interception.

The Bulldogs wore down the Florida A&M’s defense, rotating several running backs in the offense throughout the contest. 

South Carolina State had four different backs carry the ball offensively, rushing for a total of 203 yards. Their rushing attack was led by senior running back Chris Massey, who gained 110 yards on 27 carries.

South Carolina State’s head coach Buddy Pugh said the Bulldog’s victory was an overall team effort.

“I’m awfully proud of our football team after the game this evening,” Pugh said. “I thought we played smart on all three phases. I thought our defense played exceptionally well; I thought we kicked the ball very, very well. It was just one of those kinds of deals where everything seemed like it went right for us.”

South Carolina State’s sophomore wideout Lennel Elmore also had a superb individual outing against the Rattler’s defense. He led the Bulldogs aerial attack catching 11 passes for 126 yards.

However, it was a disappointing night for the Florida A&M offense, which went three-and-out on the first three drives of the contest; accumulating only 106 yards of total offense for the evening.

Head coach Joe Taylor said that the inconsistency of his offense significantly contributed to Saturday’s loss.

“When you look at the defensive unit and when you look at the special teams, you really just hurt for them,” Taylor said. “Those guys played really hard tonight.”

Nevertheless, not so pleased with the decision making of starting sophomore quarterback Martin Ukpai, Taylor decided to relieve him of his duties, pulling him out of the game to start the second half.

“Offensively, certainly we’re having quarterback issues with not correctly following the system,” Taylor said. “Ultimately, I’m not going to throw Ukpai away, but certainly he’s taken a step back.”

Ukpai was replaced by senior quarterback Eddie Battle, who also struggled against the Bulldog defense only completing three passes for 25 yards with two interceptions.

Senior offensive Lineman Chris Sands said Florida A&M’s offense failed to accomplish several assignments that were very pivotal in the Rattlers’ offensive scheme. 

“We’ve worked hard all week in practice, and this is not what we expected,” Sands said. “We have a long season ahead of us. We just have to go and correct our errors, and just keep going on.”