After several seasons playing the "road warriors" role for most of September, the South Carolina State Bulldogs football team opens the 2019 season at home on Saturday against the Wofford Terriers from Spartanburg.
Having won four of their last five games in 2018, the Bulldogs and Buddy Pough (entering his 18th season as head coach) are looking to get things moving in the right direction early in the 2019 season.
Kickoff for Saturday's game is at 6 p.m. on Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
"A home game is a little bit unusual for us (for the season-opener)," Pough said. "Generally we are off on the road somewhere, trying to make a few bucks (for the program).
"To be able to play a home game this, early in the year, is really special for us."
The fact that the visiting Terriers - coached by second-year head coach Josh Conklin - are ranked No. 8 in the STATS FCS 1-AA Preseason Poll and are coming off a 9-4 record and a Southern Conference championship season makes things a bit more interesting for the Bulldogs.
"Wofford's not any easier than the teams we try to get money out of; so they're coming in here to try and get after us," Pough said. "I'm not so sure if sometimes you should bring these types of teams in front of your home crowd or not.
"But, it's a good opportunity for us. I think we can play with these guys. But, like up until the first time you get hit in a boxing match, you don't know how you're going to react. If we can play with them, it could be a great day for us."
The last time Wofford played SC State, the Terriers took a 28-21 win at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg. That was 2006. Wofford leads the all-time series with a 6-2 record.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 5-6 record and 4th-place finish in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2018, return some key players in all three phases of the game.
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On offense, redshirt junior quarterback Tyrece Nick is back, along with senior tackle Alex Taylor, junior running back Datron James, sophomore wide receiver Will Vereen and senior wide receiver De'Montrez Burroughs.
On defense, senior linebacker Chad Gilchrist is back, along with redshirt sophomore defensive backs Duane Nichols and Decobie Durant, senior defensive linemen Paul McKeiver and Tyrell Goodwin, and senior defensive end (joker linebacker) Bruce Johnson.
On special teams, sophomore kicker Dillon Bredesen is back, as is junior punter Cliff Benjamin.
It's impressive that the Terriers team of 2018 ranked No. 5 across the NCAA in rushing offense (311.7 yards per game) and No. 8 in scoring defense (allowing just 19 points per game).
However, with Pough looking for Nick to complete more passes this season, the air might offer the Bulldogs some opportunities on Saturday. The Terriers ranked No. 41 across the NCAA in Passing Yards Allowed in 2018.
"Our receiving corps in general has improved a lot," Pough said. "It's now a case of seeing if they can go out there and do it against a great secondary like Wofford.
"We really like what we see with our receivers and think that maybe we can use those guys to take advantage of some situations and throw the ball around a little bit."
Although there was some talk that the Terriers might move away from the option offense after longtime head coach Mike Ayers retired after the 2017 season, Wofford has shown no signs of drastically changing the offense that the program has been known for in the FCS ranks for many years.
And with all five starting offensive linemen returning for the Terriers after ranking fifth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed in 2018, there is little reason to redesign what has worked on offense.
"There's been talk that they might change things up some, but I don't think that offensive staff will stray far from their base, which is the option," Pough said. "And, on defense, their linebackers are back and they have most of their secondary back, so they are a really good defensive team."
Wofford senior starting outside linebacker Jireh Wilson said earlier this week that the Terriers can compete against any opponent, including one they are unfamiliar with, like the Bulldogs.
"I have no doubt about our ability to get up, or to play or to compete with anybody in the country," Wilson said. "SC State is athletic and their quarterback is super-athletic. They have a really good stable of running backs.
"They have good tight ends and have some athletes out on the edges; so it's going to be a test."
Even with Wofford bringing in the first Terriers team in program history that is coming off back-to-back Southern Conference titles, the Bulldogs look to handle their business on Business and Industry Day at SC State.