Rattlers’ Struggles Continue in 28-10 loss to Aggies
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
A familiar look was on the faces of the Florida A&M football players again. Perhaps no other player looked as downtrodden as quarterback Carson Royal.
Most of the 10,279 fans had already left Bragg Stadium when Royal and a few of his teammates found themselves face to face with the media, following a 28-10 loss to North Carolina A&T on Saturday night.
“I just have to make plays,” Royal said. “Obviously I didn’t play my best tonight. I just have to do better.
“We made some plays but not enough to put some points on the board.”
The problem for the Rattlers was an Aggies defense that snuffed out everything that FAMU tried to do on the ground. A&T was so effective that the Rattlers ran just 18 rushing plays that yielded an anemic four yards.
“Anytime a team becomes one-dimensional it’s tough,” said first-year coach Alex Wood. “It’s tough if your opponent can render you to be one-dimensional in your attack.”
In all, FAMU’s 58 plays produced just 124 yards of total offense. FAMU’s troubles didn’t stop there; the Rattlers were flagged seven times for the loss of 110 yards in penalties.
Even when they had the ball they didn’t do much with it, converting on three of 17 third-down opportunities.
The loss dropped FAMU to 1-7 overall and 1-4 in the MEAC, giving the rest of the season an image of improbability with games remaining against Hampton, Morgan State and Bethune-Cookman.
Royal completed 18 of his 40 pass attempts to four different receivers, but none of them was of any consequent to put the Rattlers in position to score.
FAMU’s only touchdown came after the Rattlers recovered a blocked Aggies’ punt on their 25. Royal found Desmond Noird on the receiving end of a 3-yard pass with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Colby Blanton’s field goal at the end of a four-play drive accounted for the Rattlers’ only other score.
The field goal opportunity was set up when Steve Sawicki’s punt sailed just 26 yards, putting the Rattlers on the Aggies’ 38. It was the third time in the half that the Rattlers got the ball at a favorable field position after stopping the Aggies with just under nine minutes to play.
With the help of a facemask penalty, they marched to the A&T 11 and Blanton did the rest.
“We got beat by a good football team tonight,” Wood said.
The Aggies established the pace early, scoring twice for a 14-0 lead, getting their second touchdown on a 24-yard run by Tarik Cohen. When Cohen, the leading rusher in the MEAC, who is on course to rewrite A&T’s career rushing mark with another 88 yards, was done he had 163 yards against the Rattlers.
As if stopping Cohen wasn’t enough, the Rattlers couldn’t stop damming themselves with penalties. Wood attributed that to fatigue, but acknowledged it’s a problem that the Rattlers have to fix.
“It shouldn’t happen, though,” he said, referring to the penalties. “Not disciplined enough. Not good enough in some places so that happens, especially when you play a good team.”
And it happened on seniors day, when players like linebacker Akil Blount would have liked to win in his final game at Bragg Stadium.
“That was the number one priority; to win the game,” Blount said. “How bad? Very, very, very badly.”