The South Carolina State football team could use a win of any kind right now after a 1-3 start to the season.
Getting one in front of a national TV audience would be even better.
So it's safe to say that winning this Friday night at home in conference play against Morgan State in front of the home fans and ESPNU cameras broadcasting the game live would be the best way for the Bulldogs to welcome in October.
The MSU Bears will arrive in Orangeburg from Baltimore to play on Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium carrying an 0-4 overall record and an 0-1 record in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, sit at 0-2 in the conference heading into the match-up, hungry for their first conference victory.
"ESPNU is in here to do a national telecast," S.C. State head football coach Buddy Pough said on Thursday. "We need to get a win bad.
"We are going to do everything we can to play a lot better this Friday night. We want all football fans available to come out to the game; this is a big kind of Orangeburg advertisement deal."
With the defense playing well all season, the S.C. State offense is looking to show measured improvement in this game.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford, Jr. leads the Bulldogs in both rushing (163 net yards on 50 attempts) and passing (57-of-106 for 770 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) numbers. Pough is looking to establish a running game that includes Ford, but doesn't lean on him quite as heavily.
"We'd like to try to create a little more of a quarterback run game," Pough said this week. "But when you're having little offensive line problems, like we are, then you don't hold up very good to stand back there and throw it.
"We've got to establish more of the gaps, where you take your quarterback and use him like a running back. We've got to create some extra space for our offensive attack. We can't run the football right now."
Redshirt senior Trey Samuel is the top running back through four games, carrying the ball 28 times for 108 yards and a touchdown, while catching 4 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
The plan is to push to establish more offensive weapons. But Morgan State is a team that shows some defensive strength.
"Morgan hasn't won a game, and they might be as stout up front on defense as anybody," Pough said. "They are packing the box with a lot of guys.
"We've got to figure ways to continuously mix it up. I don't think you can be one-dimensional in the game today. You've got to be able to mix it up a little bit. You can't throw it in the same spot and you can't run it in the same spot."
Trying to get needed experience for a young offensive line and an unproven stable of running backs hasn't been easy in the early going for the Bulldogs. But Pough expected a challenge from the first play of the season-opener at Southern.
"We've got to do a better job obviously, and it starts with me," Pough said. "I would like to say we don't have this or we don't have that; but I knew what we didn't have when we started.
"Right now it's on me to figure it out."
The Bulldogs are averaging 21 points through four games, while the Bears are averaging just over four points per game, having been shut out in three of their four losses. But the Bears did score 17 points on the same North Carolina A&T team that just left Orangeburg Saturday with a 21-7 win against the Bulldogs.
The Bears are coming off their bye week and are led by 6-foot-6 southpaw quarterback Elijah Staley, a transfer from Mississippi State's program. Staley passed for 303 yards against N.C. A&T in his last outing, but two of his three interceptions in the game were returned for touchdowns.
"What we've got to do is figure out how to beat Morgan, right now," Pough said. "I'm sure Morgan, with their situation, they've got as good or greater sense of urgency as we've got under these circumstances.
"I'm sure ESPN is excited about having the two of us who have one win between us. But seriously, you won't see two teams who will fight it out any harder than we will Friday night. You won't find two teams more desperate for a win."
With the experienced defensive unit setting the tone for the Bulldogs in every game, and the special teams having blocked a kick in each game this season, Pough has confidence the team will continue to improve on offense and pick up some wins along the way.
"These guys are always ready to go; they show up and they're willing to go to work to get better," Pough said. "It's been fun to see them joking to keep the enthusiasm up.
"Because, under these circumstances, it can be tough. These guys have pretty much been troopers. It would be nice if we could block a little better and throw a little better. But at the same time, they understand that it's a work in progress."
More progress could mean several good opportunities for October wins against four teams (Morgan State, Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State and Howard) that enter the month with a combined 4 wins between them.
"I think this team can break out and be as good as any team in this league," Pough said. "Right now, though, it just seems to be eluding us.
"It's not from lack of effort. We've got coaches spending the night here (in the football offices), trying to figure things out. We've got players in and out of here all day long. This place is buzzing with people trying to figure this thing out. I'm as enthusiastic as I've ever been here. I'm just ready for us to get that light to come on and stay on."