Having won two of three home games in their last four contests, the South Carolina State Bulldogs (2-3 overall, 1-2 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) will travel to play their next two football games.
The hope is that the offensive output seen in Friday night's second half in a 35-14 home win against Morgan State travels well. The 28 unanswered points added up to the biggest scoring outburst the team has produced this season.
"We won a football game and now it's one of those situations where we need to figure out how to keep it going," Bulldogs head coach Buddy Pough said on Monday at his weekly press conference. "We played pretty ordinarily against Morgan State on Friday night, but we did finally find a running back who wanted to do a little something.
"I was proud of the fact that we came back to win after being down (10-7) at the half. I couldn't fathom what it would be like around here this week had we lost that game."
Redshirt senior receiver-turned-tailback Trey Samuel broke out for 146 rushing yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns to give the Bulldogs the most potent pop of offense the team has had this season. Redshirt junior receiver Quan Caldwell also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford Jr., and redshirt senior All-American linebacker Darius Leonard returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
Those kinds of point productions, including through the air and on the ground, could go a long way in securing road MEAC wins the next two Saturdays. The Bulldogs will basically begin a tour of the East Coast, leaving Orangeburg to play at Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla., this Saturday at 4 p.m., before leaving campus next week to play at Delaware State in Dover, Del., in a 2 p.m. start on Saturday, Oct. 21.
"The atmosphere is miles different this week than what it was in recent weeks (after losses at Southern, at N.C. Central, and at home against N.C. A&T)," Pough said. "We're still moving pieces around in our offensive front, trying to get our line right, dealing with guys who are hurt and guys who don't do so well.
"We've got our issues and our work cut out for us. But our receivers are starting to play fairly well. I (verbally) beat our quarterback up from time to time, about what he needs to do better, but let me be perfectly honest with you that he has played decent at times. It's hard for him to stay in there, play after play with trash in his face, and still be able to throw the ball."
Having 17 lost yardage plays against winless Morgan State (0-5) is something the Bulldogs will look to improve on as the season continues. But, playing well enough to overcome such negative numbers was impressive for a team trying to find its footing.
"It was almost more than we could overcome," Pough said. "To get beaten by a team that hadn't won a game, when you're trying to find any little bit of confidence you can, would have been devastating.
"So, we're excited about the fact that we were able to overcome it and overcome it in the second half. We were just looking for any sign of anything positive. I feel confident now that our guys can continue to improve."
Pough mentioned all the game film and game-week studying his offense has been doing all season long, in an effort to improve their play.
"I kind of sensed that we were quietly confident that we would eventually get it going," he said. "We've just got to keep our head up and not get in the dumps and get discouraged.
"We haven't been very fortunate, but on Friday our guys made plays when we needed them."