On Saturday, for the second consecutive game, the South Carolina State football team was in position to either tie or win a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest in the final minutes of play.
Unfortunately, this weekend’s outcome wasn’t as fortunate for the Bulldogs as the past Saturday’s win at Morgan State had been.
Even with the home defense allowing just a field goal in the second half of play on Willie E. Jeffries Field, S.C. State (1-5 overall, 1-2 in MEAC) lost at home by two points, 28-26, to Bethune-Cookman (4-3, 2-1 in MEAC).
Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Tyrece Nick finished a 14-play drive that covered 75 yards with a 1-yard touchdown run at the 2:32 mark of the fourth quarter. But, when Nick dropped back for an attempted pass for the tying 2-point conversion, linebacker Tydarius Peters knocked the ball out of his hand, ending the threat.
“It was a noble effort, but I don’t know how much you get much for effort,” S.C. State head football coach Buddy Pough said. “Our guys did play hard all the way through and did hang in the football game.
“This team just hasn’t quite grown up enough to get it to the house. This is two years in a row that we’ve given those guys (B-C) opportunities to make points in the kicking game.”
Nick led S.C. State with 129 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries. Jarius Jenkins (Hunter-Kinard-Tyler product) carried the ball a game-high 24 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. For the second straight game, redshirt freshman defensive back Duane Nichols (Lake View) led the Bulldogs in tackles, recording 8, including a tackle for a loss. Junior linebacker Lane Jones added 6 tackles.
The Bulldogs play at home again next Saturday, hosting Delaware State in another MEAC contest at 1:30 p.m.
The Wildcats got ahead by scoring the first 10 points of the game and held a 12-point advantage at the half (25-13).
The visitors took the opening drive of the game and went 51 yards on 11 plays, scoring a 31-yard field goal by Uriel Hernandez at the 10:42 mark of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs punted on their first possession, after which the Wildcats followed suit by having a drive stall and punting back to the home team.
The B-C defense then posted the first touchdown of the game, when Trevor Merritt picked off a pass from Nick and returned it 42 yards for a score. Hernandez added the PAT for a 10-0 lead for the visitors with 3:46 left in the opening period.
Fans in the stands at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium saw the two teams combine for 28 points in a fast-paced second quarter, leaving the Wildcats leading 25-13 at the half.
The home team ended the first quarter mounting a drive that resulted in Nick calling his own number for a 2-yard touchdown at the 13:18 mark of the second quarter. The PAT attempt was blocked and returned 90 yards by Kennedy Ndukwe for two points, for a 12-6 lead for B-C.
“We worked hard on that all week, but they still were able to squirm through there and get it,” Pough said. “We aren’t quite strong enough up front. We don’t have quite enough bodies.
“We keep patching things up, but it just doesn’t work.”
On the ensuing possession, B-C needed just 3 plays to cover 55 yards and finish with a 31-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone by Akevious Williams. Hernandez’ kick hit the upright and bounced away, leaving the score 18-6 with 11:33 left in the first half.
After three straight 3-and-out possessions, B-C needed just 2 plays to score again, covering 35 yards. Williams called his own number again, going 26 yards up the middle for a score with 6:06 left in the half. Hernandez added the PAT, for the 25-6 score.
Nick found De'Montrez Burroughs in the right side of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds left in the first half. Dillon Bredesen added the PAT for the 25-13 halftime score. Sophomore defensive back Zafir Kelly intercepted a Williams’ pass before the half, but a sack and forced fumble ended S.C. State’s opportunity to score again before the break.
S.C. State got the ball to start the second half and made it count, covering 80 yards in 12 plays, finishing with a Jenkins’ 1-yard touchdown run at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. Bredesen’s kick made it 25-20, with B-C still in front.
The Wildcats then scored on their first possession of the fourth quarter, getting a 21-yard field goal from Hernandez at the 9:19 mark. The 28-20 score, set the stage for S.C. State’s late touchdown and failed attempt to tie.
“Defensively, I think we played better in the second half,” Pough said. “But, that sudden-change stuff, our defense wasn’t quite stern enough to deal with those big plays, and they made scores.
“We were really bending on defense, without breaking. But, we’ve got to do better.”
Williams led the Wildcats with 110 yards on 10 carries, with his two touchdowns. Keavon Mitchell had 3 receptions for 51 yards. Devin James and Todney Evans led the B-C defense with 8 tackles.