The South Carolina State football team gave fans a glimpse of what the future might hold in the final game of 2016 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs took a 28-7 season-ending victory against Bethune-Cookman on Willie E. Jeffries Field, inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium, with a redshirt junior making his first collegiate start at quarterback.
It was quite fitting for a game that was originally scheduled to be played in October, until Hurricane Matthew changed the schedule.
Former Conway High School standout quarterback Mykal Moody had been playing wide receiver for the Bulldogs until he was injured in the Clemson game in week three of the season.
Having to recover from a foot injury for most of the season, Moody wasn’t even listed on the depth chart in recent weeks. But, after a three-touchdown rushing performance and passing for another score on Saturday, he will no doubt be involved in the offense next season.
“I don’t know exactly what all happened out there today; but I knew coming in we were going to do some things that were unusual,” S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough said. “I guess we were successful to a certain degree, and our defense continues to play off the charts for the past few weeks.
“The Moody thing was a bit of an internal deal, where we decided we wanted to do something different. We gave him a shot today and we’ll build on that for next year.”
The Bulldogs ran for 241 yards and passed for 80 yards, in taking back-to-back wins to finish an otherwise disappointing season. Moody ran for a game-high 141 yards on 21 carries.
“On Wednesday night, they (coaches) called and told me they were going to try me some at quarterback,” Moody said. “With my performance today, I shocked myself.
“I hadn’t played quarterback since my senior year in high school. I knew I could do it. Even after being out for a month of the season, I knew I could play again and get right for next year.”
To cap off things in the fourth quarter, S.C. State's 55-year-old tailback Joe Thomas Sr. got one carry for no gain, marking the second straight week he saw game action as the oldest college football player in NCAA Division I history.
Finishing the season with a 5-6 overall record and a 5-3 record for third place in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play isn’t what the Bulldogs had envisioned early in the season. But, many underclassmen got experience this season and will return with the opportunity to post a better resume next year.
“It’s still a disappointing year; but I’m proud of these guys for finishing up strong,” Pough said. “I’m happy with the fact that we showed some signs of life, with a lot of younger guys playing and showing we can do things right.”
Senior fullback Dondre Brown (70 yards on nine carries) ran for 28 yards on a fourth-and-one play late in the first quarter. That got the Bulldogs to the 11-yard line of the Wildcats. Moody called his own number and used a spin move to make his way to the end zone for the early lead, finishing off an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards. Tyler Scandrett’s first of four made PAT kicks made it 7-0 with 2:50 left in the quarter.
B-C had the ball heading into the second quarter and used up 10 plays to cover 75 yards for an equalizing score, when Akevious Williams found Jaime Wilson for a 29-yard touchdown strike with 13:22 left before the half. Uriel Hernandez converted the kick for the 7-7 tie.
A bad snap on a punt attempt that ended the following drive for the Wildcats sailed over punter Jonathan Cagle’s head. Cagle booted the ball short of the line of scrimmage and S.C. State’s Johnell Brown fielded the punt for a return to the B-C 21-yard line. On first down, Moody ran around left end and took it in for a score at the 10:05 mark of the second quarter, helping the Bulldogs to a 14-7 lead.
The Bulldogs defense then forced another Wildcats punt. But, the following possession ended with an interception and 28-yard return by free safety Diquan Richardson. That gave B-C the ball on the Bulldogs 27-yard line. Four downs later, S.C. State senior strong safety Phillip Henry broke up a pass in the end zone to get the ball back for the home team.
The Bulldogs missed the chance to add to the lead when Scandrett went wide right on a 29-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the half.
S.C. State made a defensive statement to end the Wildcats first drive of the second half. Leading tackler Darius Leonard (nine unassisted stops, three assisted stops) stripped the ball and forced a fumble and a loss of 19 yards. On the next play, redshirt senior Marquise Jones picked off a pass from Williams and returned it nine yards to the S.C. State 41-yard line.
The ensuing drive ended with a punt. But, James Johnson recovered a B-C fumble to get the ball back for the Bulldogs just five plays later.
S.C. State made the possession count, driving 44 yards on four plays and finishing with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Moody over the shoulder to De’Montrez Burroughs at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter. It was Moody’s only completion of his three attempts. For those keeping up, that was a touchdown pass from a wide receiver — who hadn’t played quarterback in college before — to the team’s leading wide receiver who started the season redshirting as a defensive back.
The Bulldogs got the ball back after another stalled Wildcats drive. That led to a seven-play drive that was highlighted by a 17-yard pass play from Dewann Ford to Quan Caldwell. The drive covered 52 yards and culminated with a 12-yard scoring run by Moody. Scandrett’s final boot made it 28-7 with 11 minutes left to play.
Tyler Smith added five tackles for S.C. State, while Dayshawn Taylor added four tackles and one assisted tackle. Leonard, Bruce Johnson, Ty Cravens and Greg Newell each had a sack for the Bulldogs.
Jamaruz Thompkins led B-C in rushing with 27 yards on seven carries.