Thursday, November 20, 2008
Atter a 26-year absence, S.C. State will be returning to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs after clinching the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship with a 32-0 win over Morgan State Saturday at Hughes Stadium.
The Bulldogs, who last appeared in the playoffs in 1982, earned the league’s automatic berth with the win, which lifted Coach Buddy Pough’s team to a 9-2 mark on the season and a perfect 7-0 in the league, with one game remaining.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Pough. “Can you imagine being so close for all the six years I’ve been here and we finally got it done.”
Backup quarterback DeWain Clark, in his second start in relief of Malcolm Long, directed the victory, which gave Pough his first outright title MEAC title in his seven-year tenure. S.C. State tied Hampton for the title in 2004 but Hampton went to the playoffs by virtue of a win over the Bulldogs that season.
Clark completed 11 of 21 attempts for 124 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He also rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries and had scoring tosses of three and 37 yards, both to wide receiver Phillip Morris, who finished with four catches for 50 yards.
Bulldog All-MEAC running back Will Ford finished with 97 yards on 12 attempts.
Pough stated, “Despite the victory our celebration is tempered a little bit because we still got some work to do. Our goal was to win a MEAC championship but beyond that we wanted to make the playoffs and make some noise.”
S.C. State went ahead 18-0 on a Phillips Adams 61-yard punt return in the first quarter at the 6:08 mark. Clark’s three-yard pass to Phillip Morris and Travil Jamison’s one-yard punch in the second closed out the half.
Clark found Morris again on a 37-yard pass with 14:24 left in the third to put the Bulldogs ahead 25-0. A 39-yard interception and return for a score by sophomore Markus James sealed the victory for S.C. State.
The Bulldogs finished with 339 yards total offense, while the Bears were held to only 133 yards and 50 on the ground.
“As the clock was winding down a lot of things went through my mind,” said Pough in his postgame comments. “The making of this championship started back in the spring when we selected some senior leadership (Terrence Allen and Raymond Harrison).
“No matter what happens I hope we get a high enough seed to host a home game but regardless I think this has the right ingriedents to do well.”
S.C. State will close out the regular season next Saturday against North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.