South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough joked Thursday that his team entered its last game against New Mexico State down three scores before they stepped off the plane.
Pough commended his team for the comeback against the Aggies, but stressed that a quicker start may have been the difference between 0-3 and 1-2.
The Bulldogs will look to get off to a quick start Saturday when they welcome Bethune-Cookman to Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg. It will be the first home game of the season, and a "must-win" according to Pough.
"We've been trying to get better on both sides of the ball," Pough said. "We have some bodies coming back that should help with our depth."
Receiver Shaq Davis is expected to make his return after catching five passes for 140 yards and one touchdown in the season opener against Alabama A&M. On defense, Jablonski Green and Zione Meadows are both expected to play, according to Pough.
"One of my biggest concerns is the heat and humidity expected for Saturday's game," Pough said.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m., the earliest start for the Bulldogs this season.
"We're expecting to be a hot afternoon game, but hopefully our depth has come up in a way that our guys can play hard for the duration," Pough said. "Usually, you have a hard time out-conditioning a team like Bethune-Cookman."
Pough said he expects Green and Meadows to see about a third of the snaps Saturday.
"We've been working those guys back in slowly," Pough said. "You can't just throw them back in, we want to make sure we're smart about how we introduce these guys back into the overall scheme of things. Hopefully, next week they can get to about half-way then be at full speed."
A rejuvenated defensive line may be the key to what has ailed SCSU's defense so far this season. After three games, the Bulldogs have just one sack. That lack of pressure has allowed for opposing quarterbacks to throw for an average of 330 yards per game. Pough challenged his secondary earlier this week and asked them to play more aggressive.
"Any time you have a team that will throw it around more than they try to run, we have to find a way to get some pressure," Pough said. "You can't always add pressure by adding people, you have to be able to get there with either a three or four-man front. This added depth may give us a chance to get the quarterback a little more."
Bethune-Cookman is led by quarterback Shannon Patrick, who has thrown for 911 yards and six touchdowns through four games. The Wildcats have four players with at least 10 catches on the season led by tight end Kemari Averett who transferred to Bethune-Cookman from Louisville.