South Carolina State wide receivers’ coach Lee Chambers had a simple assessment of his group’s performance in this past Saturday’s 27-14 loss to Bethune-Cookman.
“Very disappointing,” he said. “Very, very disappointing.”
Just nine days earlier, the wide receivers earned praise for their solid play in the 33-6 win over Georgia State. They accounted for 294 of quarterback Richard Cue’s career-high 300 yards and combined to make 18 catches and three touchdowns.
Against the Wildcats, the dropoff was dramatic and apparent. The Bulldogs’ passing game mustered only 69 yards on eight completions with none stretching longer than 20 yards as compared to four against the Panthers.
Even more frustrating for Chambers and the Bulldog fans among the 15,491 in attendance at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium were the five dropped passes and seeing his experienced group getting manhandled by the Wildcats’ secondary.
“They did a great job getting hands on,” he said. “We got rerouted and got walled. That’s one big thing we emphasized this week, being physical with our hands and being savvy as we come across the middle, making guys miss and being ready for the collision by the linebackers and stuff like that and, of course, we’ve got to correct the dropped balls.”
Preparing for Saturday’s matchup with 24th-ranked Arizona, junior wide receiver Caleb Davis expects to rebound.
“It hurt us, but like Coach said, you’re going to face adversity so it’s about bouncing back,” said Davis, who leads the team with 13 receptions. “All you can do from last game is learn from it. You can’t dwell on it.”
Chambers cited other factors in the subpar effort ranging from getting too relaxed after S.C. State took a 14-0 lead to the rainy weather. Nevertheless, he spent this week pointing out those mistake areas by his wide receivers, while trying to maintain their confidence level.
“The biggest thing is building our confidence, keeping confident and just believing in your ability and believing who we are and what we are and having pride in this team. When the quarterback throws a bad ball, we’ve got to be there to make the play. We’ve got to make him look good. When the offensive line misses a block, the quarterback’s got to bail them out. Everybody’s got to believe in each other and just take ownership, but the confidence is the number one thing. Just keep bouncing back and keep working hard and hard work pays off. Hard work pays off.”
Going against even more physical Division I teams like Arizona and Texas A&M next week means fine-tuning the “small things” in Davis’ words such as hustling to the ball and running good routes. Chambers expects his playmakers like Davis, Tyler McDonald and Lennel Elmore to answer the challenge this Saturday.
“They’re going to have some bigger, faster guys, but we’re going in there to win the game, going in there to compete and show those guys that hey, we belong right in there with you,” Chambers said. “I never go into a game thinking I’m going to get beat. I don’t want my guys to think that. I want them to fight and work their butts off and be just as physical, catch every ball, run the routes the same and we’re trying to prove something.”
Back in enemy territory
S.C. State placekicker Will Roper is no stranger to Arizona Stadium.
As a redshirt walk-on at Arizona State, he was on the winning side in Tucson of a 30-29 victory over the Wildcats in 2010.
“A lot of his buddies from Arizona State are going to the Arizona game to root for him,” Chuck Roper told The Times-News out of Hendersonville, N.C., in August.
Roper is also expected to have a large cheering section at the Sept. 22 Texas A&M game.
“My in-laws are from Texas, and they are all either Longhorn fans or Texas A&M fans,” the elder Roper told the newspapers. “When they heard Will was going to be playing there, they all said they’d be coming. He’s going to have a lot of family members in the crowd for that game as well.”
Oddsmakers not offering spread
Sports gamblers will apparently not have an opportunity to place bets on Saturday’s South Carolina State-Arizona game.
It’s one of 23 contests which as of Thursday are listed as “OFF” games, meaning no line will be set. Other “OFF” games include Furman at Clemson, Charleston Southern at Illinois, Presbyterian at Vanderbilt, Morgan State at Akron, Bethune-Cookman at Miami, Delaware State at Cincinnati and North Carolina Central at Duke.
Last week, Savannah State was listed as a record 70½-point underdog against Florida State. The Tigers lost 55-0 in a game stopped with 8:59 left in the third quarter due to lightning.