Behind Enemy Lines: SC State

"Shut Up and Play!" - It's more than just a rallying cry for the South Carolina State football team. For every coach and player, the slogan is how the Bulldogs plan to approach another season filled with high expectations from fans and media.

TEAM EXPECTATIONS

After two straight seasons of posting a 7-4 overall record and 6-2 in the MEAC, good for second place each time, S.C. State plans to do all of its talking on the field.

"We've come so close the past two years, so really this should be our third year contending for the MEAC championship and trying to get a ring on our finger, we feel like the last two years, for us to be so talented on both sides of the ball and then at the end of the season come up short by 2-3 points, that's where Coach (Oliver "Buddy" Pough) gets the motto ‘Shut Up and Play!'," senior defensive captain Terrance Allen said.

"The last two years, we've been doing all this talking. Yeah, we had people choosing us number one last season. But, we fell short. So now, we've got nothing more to say to people. All you've got to do is just put on your pants like they put on their pants and you go out there and prove to them that you deserve to be preseason number one and we can win the MEAC."

For the second straight year, S.C. State was the preseason pick to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship and advance to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1982.


COACHING PROFILE

SCSU's Oliver "Buddy" Pough (47-21 overall, 35-12 MEAC) 7th season -A former S.C. State All-conference offensive lineman who was a part of two MEAC title teams in 1974 and 1975 with future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson, Pough is the third-winningest head coach in school history. A contract extension signed last year will make him the first coach in school history to make $1 million through the 2011 season. Prior to S.C. State, he was the running backs coach at the University of South Carolina for five seasons under Brad Scott and Lou Holtz 1997-2002 and spent nearly 20 years on the high school level. In 1996, he led Fairfield-Central to an undefeated season and Class 3-A state championship...He was also part of the last S.C. State coaching staff to lead the Bulldogs to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 1982...Owns a .500 or better record against every team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but has only one co-conference championship (2005) to his credit...Had to replace five assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator John Hendrick (now the defensive line coach at South Florida), who departed for other opportunities.


TEAM STRENGTHS

An experienced, offensive line which has spearheaded a running game which led the MEAC in rushing (264 yards per game) and total offense. With a quarterback in Malcolm Long less prone to run the football than predecessor Cleveland McCoy and play-making wide receivers like Trey Young and Phillip Morris, the Bulldogs' vertical game will show a vast improvement and possibly prevent defenses from packing the line of scrimmage to slow down running back preseason MEAC Offensive Player of the Year William Ford.

The team's defensive strength is the linebacking corps where Tony White (out for Saturday's game with a broken left hand), Marshall McFadden and Julius Wilkerson make plays and have a nose for the football. The defensive line, while undersized, has effort players in Cedric Lloyd and Clemson transfer Xavier Littleberry. In the secondary, safety Markee Hamlin led the team in interceptions. On special teams, punter Aaron Haire was second in the conference in yards per kick and new place-kicker and Pensacola, Fla. native Blake Erickson is expected to be an upgrade in a problem area the past six years for head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough.


TEAM WEAKNESSES

Over the past two seasons, South Carolina State's efforts to win the MEAC were stymied by a secondary which gave up big passing plays at inopportune times and an inconsistent kicking game. The Bulldogs are hoping the latter area will be improved with the addition of Erickson, while the former remains in question as the team has even moved former wide receiver Terrance Smith to defensive back to shore up the area.

There's little quality depth on the defensive line and even the offensive line has seen three starters miss time during the preseason due to injuries.

A disturbing trend for S.C. State in recent years is its second-half woes. Since Pough's arrival in 2002, the Bulldogs are only 5-15 when trailing at halftime and only two of those victories have taken place since 2005.

In the 10 losses S.C. State has suffered since 2005, it has been outscored by opponents 60-0 in the fourth quarter.

Turnovers have also plagued the Bulldogs in big games, especially in the two games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.


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