With just one catch in the fourth quarter a week ago at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, Tyler McDonald would have owned outright the all-time record for receptions at South Carolina State.
After the Summerville native was unable to secure career pass 136 from backup quarterback TeDarrius Wiley, the Bulldogs’ coaching staff decided to end his evening with the 44-3 victory over North Carolina Central well at hand. For McDonald, the game result was more important than catching a single-game career-high 10 passes to move alongside Oliver “Trey” Young for most receptions (135) in school history.
“It feels good,” McDonald said. “It’s one of the things I’m glad I got out of the way. “Right now, I really haven’t been focused on the records. I’ve been focused on helping the team win after what we went through last year and we’re on a roll right now.”
The current five-game winning streak has helped S.C. State (5-2, 3-0) already match last year’s win total. More importantly, the Bulldogs have put themselves in position to not only clinch a winning record after finishing under .500 in 2012, but also reclaim first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in against defending champion Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Oct. 26.
For McDonald and head coach Buddy Pough, defeating the Wildcats (5-1, 2-0) is more of a priority than breaking the tie with Young for most career receptions, as well as surpassing the Charleston native’s mark for receptions (2,156) and Freddie Solomon’s school record for touchdown catches (20). McDonald is 110 yards and six touchdowns shy of breaking the marks.
“I don’t think it will be an issue one way or the other,” Pough said. “We’ve got half the season left to go here. We’ve got five games to go. The fact that he’s that close to the records is a tribute to the fact that he’s a real good player. But that’s not what we’re about right now. We’re trying to win a football game. We’re trying to win a conference championship and all that other stuff is gravy on this piece of meat.”
First in the MEAC in receiving yards per game (86.6) and fifth in receptions per game (3.9), McDonald has reaped the benefits of the coaching staff involving him more in the team’s offense. Under new wide receivers coach Steve Bird’s tutelage, McDonald has thrived with the increased opportunities, whether it’s on short designed plays or catching deep balls for touchdowns from quarterback Richard Cue.
The improved play of the Florence native is not surprising to McDonald, who believes it’s all about Cue playing at a high confidence level.
“He can throw it and run the offense with the best of them,” he said. “As long as he knows that, he’s that good.”
Even during the bye week, McDonald continues to hone his craft both on the field and in the film room. The coaching staff has maintained a game-like pace during workouts this week and McDonald does not expect rust to play a factor Oct. 26 at Municipal Stadium.
“I just win to get that win,” he said. “It’s the game of the year in the MEAC. In this game, I could care less (about the record).”
West standing tall
At Lexington High School, Taquan West often took a back seat in the spotlight bestowed upon teammate and 2011 “Mr. South Carolina Football” Shaq Roland.
Whether in football or basketball, where West was a North-South All-Star, it was Roland who made news for his spectacular plays on the gridiron and hardwood. As a member of the state Class 4-A track and field championship team as a senior, West distinguished himself by earning a silver medal in the high school.
West’s athletic ability was not lost upon the S.C. State coaching staff, who saw potential in the 6-4, 210-pounder. A tight end in high school, West’s size and hands made him comparable to another Bulldog on the roster Temarrick Hemingway.
These days, it’s West who’s proving valuable for the Bulldogs. West is third on the Bulldogs with 16 catches for 159 yards this season and has 17 receptions for 166 yards in 10 career games.
“He does seem to be getting a little bit better feel for things and getting a little bit better understanding of how to get to the football,” said Pough during an Oct. 5 press conference. “He’s a bigger, physical style kind of outside receiver. We would like to try to see if we can continue to develop a couple more guys that way.”
As for Roland, he’s had as many receiving yards as West this season (161) to go with one touchdown. However, he’s only caught 13 receptions through 13 career games at South Carolina and makes his return this Saturday against Tennessee following a three-game suspension for what head coach Steve Spurrier called “violation of university policy.”
Subsequent reports from other media outlets stated Roland was suspended for taking Adderall, presumably, without a prescription.
SBN SPORTS BLACK COLLEGE POLL
2. Tennessee State
3. South Carolina State
4. Winston-Salem State
5. Jackson State
6. Alabama State
8. Prairie View A&M
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10. Alcorn State
HERITAGE BOWL RADIO NETWORK BLACK COLLEGE FCS TOP 10 POLL
1. Tennessee State
3. South Carolina State
4. Alabama State
5. Jackson State
6. Alcorn State
7. Prairie View A&M
8. North Carolina A&T
10. North Carolina Central