South Carolina State scored all the second-half points, even spotting Morgan State two early safeties, in taking a 35-14 home win at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on Friday night in the first Friday football game in Bulldogs’ program history.
The 28 second-half points scored by the home team made up for the 10-7 deficit it faced at halftime.
For the first time all season, S.C. State head coach Buddy Pough saw his offense take advantage of opportunities and gain momentum, with redshirt senior tailback Trey Samuel (Hartsville) running for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
"That was the game plan all week, to get the ball in my hands a little bit more," Samuel said, having missed most of the 2016 season due to injury. "I'm just happy that I made something happen.
"I just kept my confidence throughout the game, being patient and waiting for the holes to open up. It's been a struggle, but we've been staying together and staying positive. That's what pushed us to the victory today. We came in at halftime with our heads down a little bit; but we knew what we could do and that we just had to execute."
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford, Jr. passed 9-for-22 with an interception and a 28-yard touchdown pass.
As usual, the S.C. State defense held up and made a difference, with All-MEAC linebacker Dayshawn Taylor intercepting a pass on the goal line and All-American linebacker Darius Leonard intercepting two passes, including one for a touchdown and one on the goal line.
“We got a much-needed win and I’ll guarantee you it wasn’t easy,” Pough said. “We’re proud of our defense for keeping us in it for so long.
“We’ve still got plenty of work to do on offense, but at least we found us a home run hitter (in Samuel). Morgan State did a fantastic job, coming in here with a different defense than anything we've seen them do. It took us the first half to get any idea of what we could do against them.”
The win earned the Bulldogs (2-3 overall, 1-2 in MEAC) their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference win of the season and dropped the visiting Bears to 0-5 overall, 0-2 in MEAC play.
The Bulldogs play next on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Bethune-Cookman at 4 p.m. in another MEAC contest.
In a game where the Bulldogs forced and recovered three fumbles, while also intercepting three passes, it still took a second-half scoring surge to decide a winner.
Leading 10-7 heading into the third quarter, the Bears ended the Bulldogs’ first drive of the second half with a block of punter Cliff Robinson’s (Lake Marion) attempt to punt out of his own end zone. Corvon’Tra Revell blocked his second of the night off Robinson, this time through the back of the end zone for a safety and a 12-7 lead.
Ford was intercepted by Donovan Jackson on the next S.C. State possession, but the Bulldogs got the ball back when Devondre Powell recovered a fumble in the end zone for the home team. That drive ended with a bad snap over Robinson’s head and out of the end zone for a second straight safety and a 14-7 Bears’ advantage.
Damu Ford recovered a fumble to get the Bulldogs the ball back, and that set up a score. Freshman quarterback Tyrece Nick came on to run the offense and run the ball a few plays, before Ford returned and connected on a third-down pass to Quan Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown with 4:41 left in the third quarter. Tyler Scandrett added the PAT for a 14-14 score.
Both teams ended two drives with punts before the next scoring came in the fourth quarter. But the fourth punt in a row resulted in a Bears’ fumble, as Austin Ruger made the hit and Orangeburg’s own Cornelius Walker recovered the fumble. That set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Samuel at the 13:32 mark.
Backing Morgan State near its own end zone on the ensuing drive, the S.C. State defense got points when Leonard (career 2nd-best 18 tackles in the game) intercepted a pass for a 12-yard touchdown at the 13:15 mark. Scandrett’s kick made it 28-14.
Samuel got the Bulldog faithful on their feet one last time at the 10:44 mark of the fourth, when he broke free for an 89-yard touchdown run. Scandrett’s kick made it 35-14.
"Now the plan is to keep going and end the season on a long winning streak," Samuel said.
The home team was a bit too hospitable early, as the Bulldogs headed to the half down 10-7.
It was quite an eventful first half, with S.C. State having an apparent 85-yard touchdown run called back for a penalty, and later Morgan State having a successful fake punt and pass into the red zone negated by two penalties.
In an exciting start for Bulldog fans, S.C. State stopped the Bears on the opening drive of the game, forced a punt, and then marched down the field for a touchdown on the home team’s first possession.
Starting at their own 31-yard line, the Bulldogs needed just six plays to cover the 69 yards for a score. Mixing in the run and the pass on the series, S.C. State gave Samuel the handoff on a first-down play at the Morgan State 44-yard line. Samuel got good blocking from the Bulldogs’ O-line and ran untouched for the score, with 10:41 left in the first quarter. Scandrett added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
Morgan State battled back and got in the red zone on their ensuing drive. But redshirt senior linebacker Dayshawn Taylor snagged an interception on the goal line off a pass from Bears 6-foot-6 southpaw quarterback Elijah Staley (Mississippi State) to deny an early answering score at the 5:21 mark of the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs couldn’t move the ball and were forced to punt out of their own end zone. That gave the Bears the momentum to post an answering drive with a touchdown. Benjamin punted from near the end line and the Bears got a 37-yard return from William King to start at the Bulldogs’ 19-yard line.
Four plays later, Eric Harrell ran in from a yard out to get the Bears on the scoreboard. Luke Ursanel added the PAT for the 7-7 tie with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
At the end of the Bulldogs’ first drive of the second quarter, Benjamin was forced to punt out of his own end zone again. Revell blocked it for the Bears and Deontaye White recovered it on the S.C. State 9-yard line. Four plays later, Uransel added a 23-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead, the first lead Morgan State held all season.
A bad snap late in the half negated a field goal try for the Bulldogs. But a successful fake punt by the Bears just before the break was called back for a penalty.