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Tackle photo from Savannah State game

Savannah State tailback Jaylen McCloud (37) is stopped by South Carolina State defenders Alex Brown (30), Chad Gilchrist (11) and Cornelius Walker (46) during Saturday's MEAC game on Willie E. Jeffries Field. The Bulldogs won, 21-17, to move to 5-5 on the season.

While on a 4-game win streak, it's OK to know you won one game that you probably should have lost.

On Monday, at his weekly press conference, South Carolina State head football coach was still openly relieved that his Bulldogs (5-5 overall, 4-2 in MEAC) found a way to score late on Saturday and get out of Oliver C. Dawson Stadium with a 21-17 win against Savannah State.

It was the last game in MEAC play for the Tigers' program (2-8 overall, 1-6 in MEAC), and they played well enough to leave with a victory. But, a late Bulldogs' score by the defense made the difference and pushed the home team to 5-5 overall and 4-2 in MEAC play, in a game that offered very little offense for either side.

"We played Savannah State and we won on Saturday, but it was probably a game that we didn't deserve to win," Pough said. "We didn't expect to win it, at the point where we couldn't seem to get anything going on offense.

"Savannah State really should have won the game. When you go back and look at their games, that game was really similar to how they played in the Charleston Southern game. They really beat up Charleston Southern similarly. We were fortunate to win."

In the early part of the fourth quarter, Pough went over to talk with his defense.

"Our guys didn't give in; I went to the defense and said 'hey guys, we need one more stop,'" Pough said. "Offensively, we were still struggling. I said, 'if we get one more stop, I think we can get it in for a score.'

"Those guys not only got the stop, but they punched the ball out and we got the score."

Damu Ford, a senior defensive end from Dillon High School, forced a second fumble for the game, setting up the score that now gives his graduating class the chance at going out with a winning season.

"They ran a quarterback read deal and he (Ford) punches it out and (redshirt freshman) Duane Nichols, another Dillon County boy from Lake View High School, catches it in his hands and I'm standing over there yelling 'run, run, run,' and at that point he (Nichols) goes down the sideline and scores," Pough said of Nichols' 55-yard fumble return for the go-ahead touchdown. "That's how we won the football game, but up until then, it was not a fun day here.

"Not only did our defense score for us in the second half, but our defense shut them out. If we don't get that stop, I think we're done."

The S.C. State offense that had been clicking and even rolling in recent weeks, struggled all day Saturday, finishing with just 155 yards of total offense.

"The real bad part about the game Saturday is that we had gotten to the point where we felt like, offensively, we had kind of found ourselves," Pough said. "We thought we had some things that we could lean on, running the ball a little bit, and we had a pretty good idea about how our offensive line would play.

"Then, we go out Saturday and pretty much lay an egg. The first play we scored on on offense was one where our quarterback had a bad read, we run into a bad look, but he just makes a guy miss and runs into all those guys and goes in and scores.

"It was not a play that we designed or had much to do with, other than our quarterback just made a play. It was not one of those days where we felt good about much offensively. But, you did feel good that these guys hung in and didn't make a bunch of turnovers, to lose the game that way. Eventually, we got a break and went on to win the football game."

When asked about his young roster winning 5 of 6, after starting the season 0-4, Pough smiled and gave a simple answer.

"We like to think that that shows a lot of character," Pough said. "But, I'd like a little less character and a little more wins.

"Seriously though, it's a building process that gives us a chance to have something to look back on and see that we were at the brink of being awful and then we went on to become a lot better."

A win this Saturday in the season finale at home against North Carolina Central would give the Bulldogs a 6-5 final record, marking the first winning season since 2015, and the 14th in Pough's 17 seasons as head coach.

And, with no official word on who will coach the Bulldogs after this season, after Pough's current contract expires during this school year, the coach had a few words to share.

"You think about it all the time, but at the same time, you don't stop and let that be the focus of a moment," Pough said. "We've said all year that we will get through the year completely, and once we do, it will give us enough time to sit down and reflect and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, that way.

"At that point, we will make a call."

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