Having rebounded in dominating fashion from a loss in the program’s first-ever Southeastern Conference game, Texas A&M sees a South Carolina State team looking to do the same.
The Bulldogs have dropped two straight and are coming off their worst loss in the Buddy Pough era in a 56-0 shutout at 22nd-ranked Arizona. Nevertheless, the Aggies’ players are preparing for S.C. State’s best effort this Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
“They got beat pretty badly last week,” linebacker Jonathan Stewart said during a Wednesday teleconference. “They’re a team on the rebound. Just because they are from a smaller conference, not a marquee conference, we can’t take them lightly. We only have 12 guaranteed opportunities and we’ve already played two of them. We have to prepare for every single opponent as if they are a big-time opponent.
“We can’t take them lightly at all and end up being one of the teams that everybody looks at around the nation as, ‘How did you lose to that team?’ We’re going to prepare as if this is any other opponent.”
“I know that they’re a team just like us,” wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. “I think that any team is able to beat any team, that’s just the game of football. We definitely have to get better and definitely have to fix some things on offense. This is just another week for us to work and get better.”
Texas A&M players apparently take their cue from the coaching staff. Defensive Coordinator Mark Synder said he’s coached against other MEAC teams and is “impressed” with quarterback Richard Cue and the wide receivers.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin also had positive words about the Bulldogs.
“I think [South Carolina State Head Coach] Buddy Pough does a great job,” he said. “He does a great job in the MEAC and has won championships there. They’ve got a variety – a wide-open run game, a quarterback run game, spread the field, reverses. He’s one of those guys that once you see one play, he runs it in reverse. Don’t forget about it because he won’t be afraid to run it again two or three times. You watch them play – they’re wide open on offense. They’re all over the field, spread. They’re going to test our defense from sideline to sideline. Their defense is the same way.”
Sumlin was pleased with the improvement shown by his team coming off the loss to Florida, specifically on special teams. Much of the national attention has focused on the play of first-year quarterback Johnny Manziel who set four school records following a 6-TD performance against the Mustangs to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
“I think that Johnny’s improvement from Saturday to Saturday was his ability to throw the ball from the pocket and keep his eyes down the field,” Sumlin said. “I think that as the season goes on, that will continue. What he’s finding out is that he’s not the fastest or most talented guy on the field. For a lot of players that go through that, you have to find out what you can do with your strengths and what you can’t do with your weaknesses.”
Also coming off a strong effort in Game Two is junior defensive end Damontre Moore, who accounted for six tackles and two sacks.
“Damontre is really growing up,” Sumlin said. “He’s been a guy who has always had talent. It gets back to, and I’m going to keep using this word, consistency. It’s probably our biggest challenge. And from what I’ve seen from our players, it’s been our program’s biggest challenge to go out week to week and perform at a certain level and the expectation to play at that level every week. It’s been my experience that that comes with maturity. Damontre has been challenged through two-a-days and the first week he played very well and last week he played well again. Hopefully this will continue.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s televised game is 7 p.m. ET.
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.