With the professional baseball season still in full swing, the South Carolina State football team gladly pitched a shutout on Saturday with a 41-0 home-opening win against non-conference foe Johnson C. Smith.
The Bulldogs (1-1 record) scored 6 points on defense and 23 on special teams to bolster the 12 points scored by the S.C. State offense, just a week after the team had to cancel its original home opener against Charleston Southern due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.
The Bulldogs limited the visitors to just 22 yards rushing and 47 yards passing. Meanwhile, S.C. State totaled 357 yards of offense.
“We offensively still have our ills, but we had our moments,” S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough said. “This offense is methodical, with 10 yards here and 3 or 5 yards there.
“We just need to figure out ways to make more big plays and be more consistent on drives. Looks like we lost a few offensive linemen (to injuries) today, which is what we could least afford. The defense needs to keep scoring. If we can find points that way and in special teams every game, that gives us an above-average chance to win.”
Senior placekicker Tyler Scandrett was steady, scoring a field goal in each quarter, despite having one PAT kick and one field goal attempt blocked early on by the Golden Bulls (0-3 record).
“After last season, I lost a lot of confidence,” Scandrett said of his kicking. “It was in the Hampton game, and I lost my why. Then, during the spring, I lost my grandma. That was my why.
“I decided I was going to work, do everything for her, make her proud. This is the first time she has been able to see me play since about middle school. Every time I go out there to kick, I think about making her happy, doing whatever it takes to be successful. The past two years, I haven’t been the best I could be. This is my senior year, my last go round.”
Although he didn’t pass for any points, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford was 9-for-20 passing for 172 yards through the air, and led the team with 47 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The Bulldogs jumped ahead early, scoring on their first offensive series and then scoring off back-to-back forced turnovers to hold a 19-0 lead at the half.
Once the defense held the Golden Bulls to a 3-and-out on the opening series, the ensuing punt gave S.C. State the ball at their own 49-yard line.
Seven plays later, the Bulldogs finished their opening drive with a 10-yard scoring run from redshirt senior multi-purpose back Trey Samuel (Hartsville) at the 11:45 mark of the first quarter. Scandrett added the PAT kick for a 7-0 lead.
Once Johnson C. Smith got the ball back, Devondre Powell came up from his defensive back slot to make a tackle for a 4-yard loss. Then, on second down, Bulldogs’ All-American redshirt senior linebacker Darius Leonard (Lake View) forced a fumble that his freshman teammate Zafir Kelly (Irmo) recovered and returned 8 yards to the Johnson C. Smith 25-yard line.
“This shutout was good, even though we had some bad plays on defense,” Leonard said. “We got a lot of young guys in the game and we were able to see who can help us on down the road.
“The break (in practices for the storm evacuation) didn’t really affect us, since the defense came out and played pretty good. Our goal is always to score on defense, to help our offense out. We will go into the next game with a lot of confidence, after getting a shutout in front of our home crowd.”
Four plays after the fumble recovery, Scandrett connected on a 39-yard field goal at the 8:35 mark for a 10-0 Bulldogs’ lead.
The home team defense again came up big on the following series against the Golden Bulls, as a 3rd-and-9 screen pass attempt was tipped into the air by redshirt senior linebacker Dayshawn Taylor and intercepted by junior defensive end Bruce Johnson (Greenwood) for a 17-yard touchdown. Scandrett’s PAT attempt was blocked by Carlo Thomas and nearly returned to midfield by Daryl Napper, leaving the score 16-0.
Another 3-and-out series stopped by the Bulldogs on defense set up a drive that ended with a field goal attempt by Scandrett that was blocked by JeJuan McCalston with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
The lone points scored in the second quarter came when the Bulldogs finished a 67-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal by Scandrett with 20 seconds left in the first half, for a 19-0 lead by S.C. State.
The second half saw the home team run tailbacks Datron James (Fort Dorchester) and Jarius Jenkins (Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, a team-high 12 carries for 32 yards) more, while also having series led by quarterbacks Tyrece Nick (Strom Thurmond) and Marquane Goodman (West Florence).
James ran in a 1-yard touchdown with 9:36 left in the third quarter, completing an 11-play drive that covered 64 yards. Scandrett added the PAT for a 26-0 lead.
Scandrett added to the lead with a 32-yard kick late in the third quarter and a 27-yard field goal with 9:25 left to play in the game, after an interception by Alex Brown (Lake Marion), for a 32-0 lead.
Orangeburg-Wilkinson product Cornelius Walker, a sophomore linebacker, made the biggest play of his young college career with 7:27 left to play. Redshirt freshman linebacker Chad Gilchrist (Strom Thurmond) blocked a punt attempt and Walker scooped up the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Scandrett’s PAT made it 39-0.
Johnson C. Smith scored the final points of the game, but for the home team. A snap over the head of backup quarterback Jordan Lane went through the back of the end zone with 3:42 left to play for a safety and the 41-0 final.
The Bulldogs were led by Taylor with 2 unassisted tackles and 5 assisted tackles, Leonard with 3 unassisted stops and 3 assisted stops, and both Shaq Crouch (Johnsonville) and Cordell Brown (Myrtle Beach) with 3 unassisted stops apiece.
Basir Wright led Johnson C. Smith with 11 tackles, including 10 unassisted.
The Bulldogs move into Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play on Thursday night in a 7:30 p.m. game at North Carolina Central.