The South Carolina State Bulldogs football team took nearly the entire first half to score on Saturday.
But once the rain stopped and they did score just before the half, the home team kept the points coming in a 30-19 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference homecoming win against winless Delaware State (0-7 overall, 0-4 in MEAC).
The Bulldogs (2-5, 2-2 in MEAC) had their best scoring output of the season and have now scored in double figures for four straight games, increasing their point total in each game during that span.
In the total team effort for the victory, S.C. State got a solid performance from its offense, defense and special teams.
“It was a little bit scary for a while, going so long without scoring, but we got out of the hole and got going offensively,” S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough said. “Our kicker played well, and then we got the blocked kicks; so special teams, led by Coach Steve Bird, were a big part of this win.
“We couldn’t get the inside run going, but eventually (offensive coordinator) Coach (Bennett) Swygert got us going with the outside runs. The rain was rough early. You don’t want to throw the game away at that time. We kind of held on until we got out of the weather. We got it done. I’m proud and I’m happy.”
The Bulldogs play at Howard next Saturday, at 1 p.m.
Sophomore quarterback Tyrece Nick had a solid performance in Saturday’s win, posting 130 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with an 8-for-23 passing game with 133 yards. Redshirt sophomore tailback Datron James added 88 yards and redshirt freshman Farrika Grier added two touchdowns on just 5 yards rushing. Redshirt senior Jermaine Baxley led the Bulldog receivers with 2 receptions for 59 yards.
“We just needed the offensive line to push a little more and have our running backs tote the ball very well, like they did this game,” Nick said. “We still need to connect more passing-wise, but the win was good.
“I’m a team player and I try to make sure everybody eats, getting the ball in their hands to make plays. With the run game established, a lot more opened up for me. We’ve been struggling putting everything together. We knew we were going to win the whole game, but we can’t underestimate anybody. The defense always has our back, and we’ve gotten to where we are scoring 20 or more each game.”
After steady rain impacted the play of a punt-heavy first half, the Bulldogs needed a key special teams play just before intermission to get on the scoreboard. Facing a 4th-and-13 in their own end of the field, the Hornets set up to boot their eighth punt of the half. That’s where two redshirt freshmen made a play, with Duane Nichols pressuring Jose Romo-Martinez as Jaylen Evans blocked his punt. Freshman Scott Robinson recovered the ball for the Bulldogs on the DSU 29-yard line.
Three plays later, Grier scored on a 5-yard carry with 36 seconds left in the second quarter. Freshman kicker Dillon Bredesen added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
On the first Delaware State possession of third quarter, the Bulldogs came through on special teams once again. Romo-Martinez had another punt blocked, this time by Cornelius Walker (Orangeburg-Wilkinson), and recovered by S.C. State’s Jarrod Jones 8 yards from the end zone. Two plays later, Grier carried in from a yard out for a 13-0 score. DSU blocked the PAT attempt, with 11:23 left in the third quarter.
DSU rode the brief momentum to some offensive success, with tailback Brycen Alleyne carrying the ball for a 43-yard gain, setting up a quarterback keeper by Jack McDaniels on a 4-yard touchdown run. Romo-Martinez added the PAT for a 13-7 score with 9:55 left in the third quarter.
Two possessions later, S.C. State posted its best drive of the game, going 58 yards in 8 plays. The drive started with Robinson (team-high 7 tackles) picking off a pass from McDaniels at the S.C. State 46-yard line. Mixing in carries from James, Jarius Jenkins (Hunter-Kinard-Tyler) and Nick, the Bulldogs finished the series with a 13-yard quarterback keeper from Nick into the middle of the end zone. Bredesen made the kick for a 20-7 lead with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
After the Bulldogs made another defensive stop on the Hornets, S.C. State continued a drive through the end of the third quarter, finishing the 12-play series 53 yards later with a 39-yard field goal by Bredesen. S.C. State led 23-7 with 13:32 left in the game.
Both offenses were forced to punt on the ensuing two possessions, before the Hornets posted an 11-play drive that covered 90 yards and ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass from McDaniels to Nahseem Woodard. The conversion pass attempt failed, leaving the score 23-13 with 3:47 left to play.
A pitch play in the Bulldogs backfield resulted in a fumble that Rodney Hudson recovered for the Hornets. But, the drive was soon ended by sophomore cornerback Zafir Kelly, who picked off a pass from McDaniels and returned it 72 yards for another Bulldogs’ score. Bredesen added the kick for a 30-13 score with 1:54 left.
McDaniels finished the scoring with a 10-yard pass play to Taronn Selby with 10 seconds left to play, finishing off a 10-play drive that covered 77 yards. The pass attempt for the conversion failed, for the 30-19 final.
Adding to the Bulldogs defensive performance, redshirt sophomore linebacker Chad Gilchrist had 6 tackles and both senior defensive ends Bruce Johnson and Damu Ford added 5 tackles apiece.
Alleyne rushed for 96 yards, while McDaniels added 53 yards rushing. McDaniels was 18-for-36 passing for the 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Trey Gross led the DSU receivers with 5 receptions for 94 yards. Linebacker Justin Castell led the DSU defense with 10 tackles.
IN-GAME NOTES: At the half of Saturday’s game, S.C. State recognized two Bulldogs all-time greats with framed jerseys for their standout careers. Both joined the Pittsburgh Steelers to play after their playing time in Orangeburg. Donnie Shell, a five-time Pro Bowler in his NFL career and a current S.C. State board member, was presented, as was current Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave, a third-round draft pick in 2016.