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Morris runs for Bulldogs

South Carolina State running back Labron Morris (5) is wrapped up by South Florida linebacker Andrew Mims (59) as he reaches for the end zone during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

South Carolina State head football coach Buddy Pough had never heard of scheduled back-to-back bye weeks for an NCAA Division I football program before this season.

SC STATE FOOTBALL: Long break should benefit Bulldogs

Now he has experienced one this September and hopes the results following the extended break turn out well as October begins.

Seeing the results begin with a trip to Delaware State this Saturday to open Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play at 7 p.m. against the Hornets.

"We've had a good two-week hiatus, and now we're back at it, getting ready to play a football game," Pough said Monday at his weekly in-season press conference. "It is a football game and (NASCAR) race weekend in Dover, Delaware.

"It's a tough place to play. The last time we went there, two years ago, they were struggling at that point and they beat us. After that, I was really broken-hearted for a while. They played us tough here last year, but we did finally get the best of them. We need to have a great play to go up there and play really well."

SC STATE FOOTBALL: Bulldogs bruised by 55-16 loss at USF, but focused on improving through bye weeks

The Bulldogs (2-1 record) last played on September 14, losing at FBS team South Florida, 55-16. The Hornets (1-3, 0-2 in MEAC) are coming off back-to-back conference losses to Howard (24-9) and North Carolina A&T (37-0).

"It's a little bit of a mystery how we will be after having had this long of a break," Pough said. "But, it looks like we are getting to be pretty healthy."

Having two Saturdays off prior to opening conference play gives the Bulldogs a sense of starting a second season this year, or at least a second major chapter of the season.

"I told the guys earlier this year that this would be a big change period, if we weren't playing very well," Pough said. "The good thing is that we had some success leading into the break.

"But, of course, the last time we played, we didn't play all that well at South Florida. We had 8 turnovers and, defensively, we gave up some big plays. Also, we struggled some with substitutions. That was not very characteristic of our football team. Those are issues we addressed during the break and hopefully we will be better at doing all three of those things."

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Facing a team that just got shut out by the defending conference champion on a Thursday night, Pough hopes his defense can continue to post strong performances like it did in the opening two wins of the season against Wofford and Lane. The Bulldogs have 5 sacks through three games, along with 4 interceptions and 3 recovered fumbles.

"I like the fact that our guys are young, excited and enthusiastic, and they can run really well," Pough said. "The problem with young and excited sometimes is that they run really fast in the wrong direction.

"We need to make sure that we get these guys going the right way. They get so aggressive sometimes that they leave us vulnerable in some spots. But, I like our defense and the way they play. I like that we are playing a bunch of them, and that might be the most important part of the whole deal."

The defense could actually get better as the season goes on, now that run-stopping redshirt senior defensive tackle Robert "Shaq" Crouch (6-foot-4, 420 pounds) has been cleared by the NCAA to play the rest of this season after a  waiver process has been completed.

"With Shaq back, that gives us 4 players in the rotation at defensive tackle," Pough said. "We had been playing a triangle, with just 3 players there.

"That makes us a team that I think we can pretty much play 2-deep everywhere on the field."

Pough is one win away from tying former SC State head football coach Willie Jeffries, who had 128 total wins in two stints leading the Bulldogs. Pough currently carries a 127-72 overall record in this his 18th season leading the SC State program.

2019 BOXTOROW FCS HBCU Football Coaches Poll Week 5 (Records through September 28, 2019)

No. Team W-L

1. North Carolina A&T (19) 3-1

2. Bethune-Cookman 3-1

3. Alcorn State 3-2

4. Florida A&M 3-1

5. South Carolina State 2-1

6. Southern 2-3

7. Prairie View A&M 2-3

8. Alabama State 2-2

9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 3-2

10. Alabama A&M 3-2

Others receiving votes: Hampton (2-2) 9, North Carolina Central (2-3) 4.

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(1st place votes in parentheses)

2019 BOXTOROW HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll Week 5 (Records through September 28, 2019)

No. Team W-L

1. North Carolina A&T (16) 3-1

2. Bethune-Cookman 3-1

3. Alcorn State 3-2

4. South Carolina State 2-1

5. Florida A&M 3-1

6. Prairie View A&M 2-3

7. Southern 2-3

8. Bowie State 4-0

9. Alabama State 2-2

10. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 3-2

Others receiving votes: Alabama A&M (3-2) 15, Miles (3-1) 8, Virginia State (3-1) 6, Virginia Union (3-1) 5, West Virginia State (3-1) 2, Fayetteville State (3-1) 2, Albany State (2-2) 2, Livingstone (4-0) 1, Tennessee State (1-4) 1.

(1st place votes in parentheses)

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