The backfield of Dondre/Brown more than held up Saturday on Willie Jeffries Field at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
With starter Justin Taylor sitting out the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener with a shoulder injury, the Bulldogs utilized a three-headed attack out at running back in Dondre Lewis-Freeman, Dondre Brown and Charles Brown (no relation).
The trio did not miss a beat, combining for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Coupled with another dominating performance by the defense the Bulldogs rolled to a 30-6 victory over the winless Pirates in their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener.
“It was a gratifying experience to see our guys go out and have the kind of success that they had,” S.C. State head football coach Buddy Pough said.
A season-high 17,139 fans and Internet audience watching live on ESPN3.com witnessed Lewis-Freeman rush for a career-best 140 yards on 18 carries and score his first collegiate touchdown. Dondre Brown added 89 yards on 23 carries and two first-half touchdowns and quarterback Richard Cue completed 16-27 passes for 184 yards.
“This was my game to step up and I hope Coach (Pough) and the rest of the coaches can recognize my talent, so from this game, I’ll be up,” Lewis-Freeman said.
“Our coaches told us we had to step up because our motto is ‘Man down, next man’s got to step up’,” Brown said. “We got more carries and we knew it was going to be a load, so we just had each other’s back.”
While S.C. State shone on offense, Hampton’s rushing woes continued on Saturday. The Pirates (0-5, 0-1) were held to 113 rushing yards and quarterbacks Jaylian Williamson and Brian Swain were sacked five times.
Hampton’s lone bright spot on offense was punter Christian Faber-Kinney. The redshirt freshman successfully performed two fake punts on a 37-yard run and a 32-yard pass completion to Rayshad Riddick.
“They basically outsmarted us on those two plays,” said defensive end Andrew Carter, who led the team with nine tackles and 3 sacks. “But you have to think about it. If the only time you can outsmart us on two fake punts, then you’re just basically just trying to pull tricks out of the bag.”
An area which did not please Pough was the season-high 162 yards on 11 penalties. Afterwards, Pough called the rash of penalties a “crying shame” and promised to review every infraction on film.
Any concern about the Bulldogs’ running game without the services of Taylor and Xavier Quick (shoulder) were alleviated on the team’s first offensive series. Starting from Hampton’s 46, the Bulldogs’ Dondre Brown carried the football six times for 29 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run.
Cue also converted a pair of first downs with his arm and legs. He completed a 10-yard pass to Temarrick Hemingway and fought off several Hampton tackles on a fourth-and-1 for a two-yard gain.
A punt inside the Hampton 1 by Belcher set up a safety collected by the defense for the second straight week. The Pirates’ Marcus Hampton was unable to maintain his footing and was tackled in the end zone for the safety.
Penalties, miscues and turnovers prevented S.C. State from extending its lead. The Bulldogs were flagged four times for 75 yards in the first quarter, including a pair of holding penalties by the offensive line.
A botched snap by freshman Ryan Woehlert put Hampton inside Bulldog territory for the first time. The Pirates reached the S.C. State 8, but Williamson lost control of the football and linebacker Alex Glover made the recovery.
On S.C. State’s next possession, Lewis-Freeman broke into the open field for a first down. Hampton’s Justin Blake managed to tackle Lewis-Freeman and force a fumble which was recovered by the Pirates’ Carvin Johnson.
The score remained unchanged until late in the second quarter when all three active running backs contributed to the Bulldogs’ 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Lewis-Freeman opened with two rushes for 15 yards with two catches by Taquan West squeezed between a five-yard scamper.
With the football in Hampton territory, Charles Brown broke through for two runs of 18 and 14 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the 4. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the 1, Dondre Brown closed out the scoring drive with a power run into the end zone with 2:49 left in the first half.
Down 16-0, it appeared Hampton would head into the locker room scoreless. A roughing-the-passer penalty on third-and-14 and a flag for pass interference enabled the Pirates to set up a 44-yard field goal by Anthony Prevest with 2 seconds left before halftime.
Hampton’s special teams looked to provide a spark in the second half. Instead of punting the football on fourth down, Faber-Kinney scampered for a team-best 37 yards to the S.C. State 18.
The run set up a 31-yard field goal by Prevest which cut S.C. State’s lead to 16-6. With Dondre Brown on the sidelines, it was Lewis-Freeman’s turn to carry the load.
The Charlotte, N.C., native quickly turned the momentum back in the Bulldogs’ favor with a 35-yard run. After a 16-yard reception by Dennis Rowe, Lewis-Freeman squeezed through a small opening at the line of scrimmage and rushed into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.
With the aid of a late hit penalty and a pair of completions by Williamson, Hampton reached the S.C. State 33. As Williamson dropped back again, his intended pass ended up in the direction of defensive back Darius Drummond, who returned the football 78 yards for the score with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Faber-Kinney provided another scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter for the Pirates with another successful fake punt. This time, he dropped back to find an open Riddick down the visiting sidelines for a 32-yard gain.
“We worked on it and not only did he make some great plays on that, but he also punted the ball well,” Hampton head coach Donovan Rose said.
The drive stalled as Williamson was intercepted by linebacker Joe Thomas of Blackville-Hilda. An incomplete pass on fourth down at the S.C. State 21 ended the Pirates’ hopes of avoiding their worst start since 1991.
The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-0) now turn their attention to an undefeated North Carolina A&T team at the Atlanta Football Classic at the Georgia Dome.
“A&T scares me,” he said. “I don’t how good I feel. I’m hoping that we can get in there and play with those guys. I don’t know if we’re going to play with them. They’re playing so good right now. They beat Appalachian (State) and Elon, all those guys. So, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how we match up with against them, but we would like to think we can play with them.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5547. For more information about S.C. State athletics, read Grant’s blog “Following the Bulldogs” at thebulldogzone.com. Follow Grant on Twitter@TandDSports.