It's hard to prepare for the unknown.
Last weekend, the South Carolina State football team entered the season-opener at home wondering if the Wofford Terriers would continue to rely on the option offense that helped them win the last two Southern Conference titles.
What the Bulldogs learned was that the rumors floating away from Spartanburg had been true. The Terriers (then No. 8 in FCS rankings) had changed up the offense and only went to the option on various occasions during the game.
But SC State was ready, taking a 28-13 win and getting Buddy Pough his first head coaching win against a Top-10 ranked FCS opponent to start his 18th season at the helm of his alma mater's program.
This Saturday brings another unknown challenge for the Bulldogs (1-0), as SC State hosts the Lane College Dragons from Jackson, Tennessee. The Dragons play on the NCAA Division II level, in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. And with this being their season-opener, there is no recent game film to see how the Dragons look in action yet this season.
It also doesn't help that it's been 55 seasons since the two programs last played each other. But, Pough believes his Bulldogs are ready to face any challenge that Lane might bring.
"That's one of the things that helps, to have a team that's known for the option (like Wofford has been) at the front of your schedule," Pough said earlier this week. "It gives your defense a sense of urgency right off the bat. So, all your guys know they have to be good at their individual jobs, and then they've got to mesh in a way where everybody's responsibilities pair together.
"Wofford came in here and did a good many things that are similar to what we do (on offense). Defending what we faced on Saturday, even though we weren't prepared to face an offense like ours, was a good thing. Hopefully, preparing to defend everything you have to defend with option football and making the tackles, it will benefit us down the road. That discipline never hurts you."
The Dragons were 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the SIAC last season. However, 3 of their 6 losses were by a touchdown or less and they won 3 of their last 4 games.
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Lane was picked fourth in the West Division of the SIAC this year. The Dragons will be starting the season with their first 6 games being played in 6 different states (South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia).
"I've got film from their last 3 games last year," Pough said of the Dragons. "They seem to be a fairly decent football team.
"I've got some friends who have coached all over our league and the SEC, who are there coaching at this point. So, I know a little bit about them. They've been pretty successful in the SIAC for some time. They like to blitz a bunch and they like to play a lot of tough bump coverage on defense. Their quarterback runs around a good bit and he throws it well too."
The Bulldogs enter the second game of the season leading the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in scoring offense, scoring defense, pass defense, pass defense efficiency, interceptions (with 4 against Wofford), PAT kicking (4 of 4 against Wofford), sacks against (none against Wofford) and red zone offense (4 for 4 on opportunities against Wofford).
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyrece Nick has the edge in the MEAC in passing after one game, having passed for 201 yards and a touchdown against the Terriers. Redshirt linebacker B.J. Davis has the Bulldogs atop the MEAC tackles for loss category, having made 4 stops for lost yardage against Wofford.
With senior De'Montrez Burroughs and redshirt freshman Shaq Davis having combined for 9 receptions and 193 yards in the Wofford game, Pough wants to get other Bulldog receivers in the mix soon.
"I'm hoping we can get Will Vereen, Tra'Quan Dubose and Juwan Moody, well the whole crew of receivers going in a way that defenses can't gang up one one or two guys as easily," Pough said.
The Bulldogs and Dragons are renewing a series that began in 1940 when both were members of the SIAC. The series is tied 3-3 all-time, however the teams last met in 1963. SC State won that contest 81-0, according to available records. Lane won the first three games in the series, with its last triumph against the Bulldogs coming in 1946 by a 13-3 score.
On Saturday, SC State is celebrating Former Student-Athlete Recognition Day. Former Bulldog student-athletes have been invited back to the campus and the game. They will receive free game tickets, be treated to a tailgate and be recognized on the field at the game.