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GSU, SCSU out to make a statement

Eagles looking for first playoff win since 2002

GSU, SCSU out to make a statement

GSU, SCSU out to make a statement

    South Carolina State University is appearing in the FCS playoffs for the third straight year, fifth overall, but this will be the first time it has played as an at-large entry.
    That speaks volumes for the Bulldog football program and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference of which it is a member.
    While leagues such as the Colonial Athletic Conference and the Southern Conference take for granted they’ll have three and four teams in the playoffs — the CAA had five last year and four this season — the MEAC is much like the SoCon in basketball in that it is essentially a one bid conference.
    And, that normally means playing on the road. The NCAA shows little respect for leagues such as the MEAC, the Patriot, the Big South or the Northeast.
    This year the MEAC got two spots with Bethune-Cookman College (10-1) joining South Carolina State (9-2) in the tournament.
    The two tied for the championship, but B-CC got the automatic bid as a result of its 14-0 regular season win over the Bulldogs.
    South Carolina State was a playoff participant in 1981 and 1982, but did not reach the playoffs again until two years ago. Its reward was playing at Appalachian State where it lost, 37-21, as the Mountaineers scored twice in the fourth quarter.
    Last year it was the same. Win the conference, go on the road. And, again it was a trip to App where the Mountaineers scored late in the late to pull out a 20-13 victory.
    Coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough had finished taping his TV show early Sunday morning when he got word his team had been invited to join the 20 team field.
    It is only the second time the MEAC had has two teams in the field, the other coming in 2003, and Pough said earning the bid shows where the SCSU program stands nationally in terms of respect.
    “I think the teams that go in as an at-large come from a lot harder road to reach the playoffs as opposed to an automatic qualifier,” Pough said. “That’s a sign of respect for our program, and I’m proud of that.”
    Pough, a former SCSU player who is in the school’s hall of fame, was an assistant at South Carolina for five years under Lou Holtz before taking the Bulldog job. In nine years he is 76-28, and a win Saturday would give his team a third straight 10 win season.
    Offensively the Bulldogs are led by quarterback Malcolm Long, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior, who is a three-year starter.
    “He’s a sports legend in our state,” Pough said. “He was a great player at Gafney (S.C.), and the throws the ball real good.
    “He runs the team in a positive manner,” Pough said. “He’s a player who has playoff experience, and that’s important.”
    Being in the playoffs the last two years, Pough said, will serve his players well. They will not come to Paulson with stars in their eyes.
    “It’s going to be business,” Pough said. “We want to win, but I also want the players to enjoy the experience. The big thing is to go in and play well.
“We don’t talk about wins and losses during the season,” Pough said. “We want to play well in all three phases (offense, defense, special teams), and enjoy themselves.
    “We want the guys to go in and handle themselves well and represent themselves well. Good sportsmanship and how you conduct yourself is an important part of our program.”
    Long has completed 166 of 295 passes for 1,714 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been intercepted eight times. The Bulldogs are averaging 360.5 yards per game.
    Lennel Elmore has 45 catches for 526 yards. Chris Massey had 639 yards rushing before going out with a season ending injury in the seventh game of the year.
    Asheton Jordan was averaging over 100 yards per game when he was sidelined, Pough said, but Jordan is back in the lineup and has 619 yards.
    Defensively the Bulldogs led the MEAC in total defense, giving up 190 yards per game.
    One of the major reasons was linebacker David Erby, a 5-11, 225 pound senior who this week was named the MEAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.
    “He’s been solid for four years,” Pough said. “He’s a good player.”
    Erby’s 92 tackles leads the defense while linebacker Richard Donovan has 85. Defensive end Pat Washington has eight sacks.
    Tight end Trent Barnes, Elmore and tackles Johnny Culbreath (6-5, 310) and Josh Harrison (6-4, 310) anchor a big offensive line with left guard Jake Johnson (6-4, 330) being the biggest man up front.

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