Rattlers optimistic about remainder of season

Head coach Earl Holmes spoke about the football team’s turnovers and four straight losses in the weekly press conference Tuesday.

The Rattlers lost their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener against the Morgan State University Bears on Saturday 34-21.

The Rattlers (1-4, 0-1 MEAC) came within six points towards the end of the game. With four minutes left, junior quarterback Damien Fleming’s pass was tipped, intercepted and run back for a touchdown, putting the Bears up by 13.

“It’s tough every time you lose a conference game,” head coach Earl Holmes said.

Saturday’s game and the game against Samford were within the Rattlers’ reach. That tipped pass represented the type of game the Rattlers had.

“We lost the turnover battle,” Holmes said. “We have to concentrate on the small things.”

The Rattlers had three turnovers and two tipped passes turned into interceptions.

Despite Fleming’s three interceptions, Holmes still has faith in his quarterback. He praised his improved decision-making.

“We felt like we had a chance to win, but that’s the way the ball bounced for him,” Holmes said.

Holmes noticed that Fleming did not force the ball. He threw the ball to his check-down receivers.

The running game was the catalyst for the Rattlers offense. Senior running back Al-Terek McBurse ran for more than 100 yards in the first half. McBurse had eight carries for 110 yards and one touchdown, which helped the Rattlers’ offense.

Bobby Jackson, a senior linebacker, said the offense and defense need to be better because the offense could not sustain drives. The Rattlers were 4 of 8 on third downs.

“The defense has to get off the field on third downs,” Jackson said.

According to Holmes, the Bears converted the third downs because of poor tackling, which caused the Rattlers’ defense to allow 7 of 16 third down conversions all game.

Akil Blount, a sophomore linebacker, said the team remains optimistic about the tough loss.

“We fell short, but we have to get better every week,” Blount said.

The Rattlers control their own destiny because Morgan State University lost to Norfolk State University this season. If the Rattlers beat the Spartans on Nov. 2 and win out the rest of their conference games, they can still win the MEAC.

The Rattlers will look to their younger players to make plays for them.

“The younger guys seem to lead the team,” Holmes said. “Some of them will be getting more reps.”

Holmes already relies on Patrick Aiken, a freshman defensive back who has three interceptions in four games this season.

The Ratters will travel to Savannah State University this weekend to take on the Tigers at 6 p.m.