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S.C. State leads early before losing 27-14 to Bethune-Cookman

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Charles Henderson, Anthony Woodard. Richard Cue

S.C. State offensive lineman Charles Henderson, 54, blocks Bethune-Cookman defensive end Anthony Woodard, 55, as S.C. State quarterback Richard Cue looks to make a pass in the first half of Saturday’s home game.

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Oliver C. Dawson Stadium was glowing with fans garbed in white anticipating a South Carolina State football victory Saturday night.

As the final seconds clicked away, the setting was literally gray from the emptied bleachers, to the arriving rainfall to the dismal mood of the Bulldog coaches, players and fans.

Bethune-Cookman defeated S.C. State 27-14 before 15,491 fans in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener for both teams. In winning for the fifth time in six visits to Orangeburg, the Wildcats (2-0, 1-0) rebounded from a double-digit deficit for the second straight week with 27 unanswered points.

Quarterbacks Jackie Wilson and Brodrick Waters both saw action and combined for 180 yards on 14-23 passing. The Wildcats also turned the tables on the Bulldogs from a year ago when they committed four turnovers in a 26-18 loss at Daytona Beach, Fla.

This time, Bethune-Cookman forced the same number on two interceptions by quarterback Richard Cue and two fumbles.

One of the fumbles occurred on special teams and provided the turning point of the game. Punter Nick Belcher mishandled the snap, which was recovered in the end zone by Tyrone Bouie to cut the lead to 14-7.

Another special teams miscue resulted in the Wildcats’ Sven Hurd’s second field goal.

The Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1) were also stymied for the second straight week by penalties on the offensive line. For the second straight week, the group accounted for 10 of the team’s 13 penalties.

Add several dropped passes by a wide receiver corps which excelled a week earlier against Georgia State, 3-13 on third-down conversions and it was a performance which wasted an 11-tackle effort from linebacker and Blackville-Hilda alumnus Joe Thomas and left a stunned S.C. State head football coach Buddy Pough to bemoan how quickly things changed against their favor.

“I can tell you we were a comedy of errors and we had more than one team ought to have to stand as far as miscues and procedure errors and I’m at a loss,” Pough said. “We had all kinds of issues with the offensive line and the timing and all that kind of stuff and somehow or another after having going through maybe like 2-3 good solid drives, we get a turnover and then it looked like we couldn’t hold the football. We get a kicking error. It was just one mistake after the next and that’s how we lost the football game.

“I don’t know if they beat us or we beat ourselves. But it was classic to what happened to them last year.”

The first quarter saw S.C. State go for the early knockout as it scored 14 unanswered points. A 43-yard run by Jalen “Scoot” Simmons on the Bulldogs’ opening series set up Asheton Jordan’s 5-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season.

On the play, The Citadel transfer managed to push forward the line of scrimmage en route for the score.

Bethune-Cookman’s next possession ended with a fumble by preseason All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference selection Isidore Jackson, who rushed for a game-high 81 yards, and recovery by Bulldog safety Kimario McFadden at the Wildcats’ 28. It was all Simmons on the next scoring series as he carried the football four straight times before crossing the goal line on a 3-yard run.

Simmons finished with a team-high 72 yards, but was not a factor the rest of the game.

As a rainstorm briefly swooped through the stadium, S.C. State’s offense stalled and mistakes enabled the Wildcats to make another first-half rally. A Jordan fumble was the start of the Bulldogs turnover woes, although Bethune-Cookman could not capitalize initially as Hurd missed a 24-yard field goal.

After the Bulldogs were forced to punt on their next possession, the fumbled snap by Belcher and recovery for a touchdown by Bouie started the second-quarter comeback with 13:55 left. With 9:07 left, Richard Cue was intercepted by Bethune-Cookman’s Dion Hanks at the S.C. State 24.

Waters, who led Bethune-Cookman’s comeback win six days ago against Alabama State, was brought into the game. However, it was Jackson who carried the load in scoring on a 4-yard run to tie the game.

Bethune-Cookman used its final possession of the first half to take the lead on Hurd’s 38-yard field goal. S.C. State opted to run out the final two minutes of the half.

The Bulldogs looked to regain the momentum to start the second half. A dropped ball by Trey Williams forced S.C. State to punt where Belcher was forced to fall on an errant snap at his own 27-yard line.

Compounding the miscue was Belcher getting assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. This gave the Wildcats the football at the S.C. State 12 and led to a 23-yard field goal by Hurd.

As the penalties, dropped passes and failed third-down conversions kept S.C. State from moving the football, Bethune-Cookman added a final touchdown on Rodney Scott’s 3-yard run with 11:52 left in the fourth quarter.

S.C. State’s final possession ended with 1:55 left when Cue was intercepted in the end zone by Hanks for the second time. A week after throwing for a career-best 300 yards, the Wilson native completed only 8-28 passes for 69 yards.

Up next for the Bulldogs is the first of two games against Division I teams starting at the University of Arizona.

Contact the writer: tgrant@timesanddemocrat.com or by calling (803) 533-5547. For more information about S.C. State athletics, read “Following the Bulldogs” at www.thebulldogzone.com.

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