It wasn't a vacation, but it was a good break.
The South Carolina State football team got a bye-week break from play this past week prior to returning to regular workouts and meetings to prepare for this Saturday's final home game of the season against Hampton at 1:30 p.m.
"We had a week off, but we really had an extra week to get ready for the Hampton Pirates," S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough said during his weekly press conference on Monday. "We got a chance to rest up a little bit and heal some of the sick or injured guys. It gave them a time to get straight that way.
"I thought we had a nice, lively afternoon (practice) session yesterday, on Sunday. Everybody is excited about getting back to work again. When you get away from each other, it seems to make the heart grow a little bit fonder, so I think we've got a chance to come back and have a good week of preparation for Hampton."
The Bulldogs still carry a three-game losing streak, one that combines with earlier losses for five defeats in the last six games for S.C. State.
Despite not starting the last game at home against Howard, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford has proven to be the best option available for the Bulldogs behind center. He leads the team with 120 completions on 233 attempts, with six touchdowns and eight interceptions, while also being second on the team in rushing with 75 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
"He is a younger guy; Dewann has played a little over a year now in this particular spot," Pough said. "He's not quite as far along as we would have liked.
"I think that it's a little like a 'let's try to figure out what we can do with this guy' type of deal for our staff. We've been a bit loosy-goosy at times along our offensive front. We've moved around a lot of people and had personnel adjustments that we've had to find our way through. Add that in to what goes into a quarterback's game and it all becomes a tough time there."
Adding to the problems for the Bulldogs on offense this season is the lack of big-play threats. Redshirt senior tailback Trey Samuel has an 89-yard run this season, while sophomore wide receiver De'Montrez Burroughs has a 45-yard reception and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Baxley has a 43-yard reception. Other than that, the offense has needed long, sustained drives to put points on the scoreboard in 2017.
"Every series, we've got to go 10 or 12 plays to score a touchdown," Pough said. "Going that many plays in a row, without making a mistake, just to put up points has not been our style here in the past.
"It's a combination of a lot of things, not just the quarterback play. The overall offensive play has not been good, and every piece of the offense has its part."
This past Friday night, with high school playoffs in full swing around the Palmetto State, Pough and his coaching staff dispersed and visited several games to scout out talent that can be recruited to help the Bulldogs in future seasons.
"We got a chance to get out and see some young talent, and we'll continue to do so until the end of November," Pough said. "Then we will get to the contact period when we can talk and rub shoulders with these possible recruits.
"Right now, during the evaluation time, we can see the kids and talk with them on the phone. But we can't actually talk with them in person in the school until later on this fall."
The established winning tradition of S.C. State football regularly draws young players to have interest in the program. Despite last season's 5-6 record and the current 2-6 record, Pough sees that trend continuing.
"We continue to get pretty good players pretty much every year," Pough said. "There aren't too many people in programs close by who don't know who we are.
"And there's a slotting of sorts, where you get your style of kid when you are recruiting. We find that we get players close by here who can fill a lot of our needs. From there, we have to branch out and fill other needs. We need a couple positions big time next year, and we are focused on that already."