INDIANAPOLIS — The final nail in what was South Carolina State’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title hopes was potentially hammered in in resounding fashion Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Quite literally doing the hammering was North Carolina Central, a team which in a losing effort last year scored the most points by a conference team against S.C. State. Not only did the Eagles equal the feat in a 40-10 win at the 29th annual Circle City Classic, it also now holds the distinction of having the largest margin of victory in MEAC play over a Buddy Pough-led Bulldog team.
With five games remaining, S.C. State (2-4, 1-2) could still salvage a 12th consecutive winning season . Yet for many Bulldog supporters, the epitaph for the 2012 campaign can already be summed up in two words — NO OFFENSE.
It’s an expression which for this year’s S.C. State football team has a double meaning. For Pough, his assistants and players, “NO OFFENSE” could sum up their feelings toward a frustrated fan base where high championship expectations are the norm.
From fans and an observers’ standpoint, “NO OFFENSE” means exactly what it says. Exclude the dominating performance in the season-opener against Georgia State and one could see what’s been missing.
As much as Coach Pough does not allow himself to get enthralled with statistics (“Stats are for losers” is an opinion he’s expressed on more than one occasion), the numbers tell a painful truth about the Bulldogs’ offensive woes the past five games:
n 0 — The number of points scored in the second half in four games (Bethune-Cookman, Arizona, Norfolk State and North Carolina Central).
n 1 — The number of touchdowns thrown by Richard Cue
n 5 — The number of times S.C. State has scored 14 or less points
n 9 — The number of interceptions thrown by Cue
n 45 — The total number of points scored by the offense (second-lowest in the MEAC)
n 278.5 — Total yards per game (second-lowest in the MEAC)
Many will put the offense’s problems squarely on the chest of Cue. Yet the Florence native’s struggles are also a combination of other factors, specifically an offensive line which has yet to show any semblance of the group which jelled at midseason last year and has a hard time going one half without a procedure or holding penalty.
The inefficiency of the offensive line has had a residual effort on the rest of the offense. S.C. State’s running game, a program staple, has slowed to a crawl. It also has not helped having a less-than-100-percent Asheton Jordan for his senior year.
The Bulldog wide receivers can also share blame. For every long yardage catch made by Lennel Elmore, Tyler McDonald and Caleb Davis, there have been several dropped passes which could have made a difference for Cue.
There’s also the shaky play exhibited on special teams, where the big returns provided last season by Darius Drummond and Stephen Murphy have been AWOL and errant snaps to punter Nick Belcher have resulted in three turnovers this season.
So now the Bulldogs find themselves in somewhat uncharted territory under Pough — looking up in the MEAC standings and placed in the role of “spoiler” in games against surprising MEAC co-leader Howard, and Delaware State.
As always, a resilient Pough still holds out hope for a dramatic turnaround in the standings. For that to occur, however, something of similar nature must happen for the offense. Hopefully, Saturday’s game was the “eye opener” Pough said that will prompt those long-discussed changes.
Linebacker Joe Thomas of Blackville-Hilda left Saturday’s game with a groin injury. Thomas is second on the team in tackles (39) behind Justin Hughes (44). Also injured was defensive back Jakar Hamilton (concussion) and right guard Tristan Bellamy (shoulder). On Pough’s television show Sunday, he indicated both Thomas and Hamilton could miss some time ... Quarterback Richard Cue’s last touchdown pass in MEAC play took place Nov. 11 against North Carolina A&T ... Saturday’s loss dropped S.C. State to 8-29 when trailing at halftime and was the first in three Circle City Classic appearances.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (803) 533-5547. For more information about S.C. State athletics, read his blog “Following the Bulldogs” at www.thebulldogzone.com. Follow him on Twitter@TandDSports.