ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough was glad to see his team rebound last season. Now, he's seeking even more out of the Bulldogs.
South Carolina State had suffered the first losing season of Pough's 12 years at the school by going 5-6 in 2012. This past fall, the Bulldogs bounced back in a big way at 9-3 to earn a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and an at-large bid to the NCAA Football Championship Playoffs.
Pough wants his club to take that next step forward this fall and break a three-decade long losing streak in the FCS playoffs.
"We were able to do the kinds of things [in 2013] that South Carolina State football had been able to do in the past," Pough said. "We played pretty good on defense. Our offense played better. We kicked the ball so we didn't get in trouble. Now, this team's a different team. We've got a lot of holes to fill."
Still, Pough likes the pieces he has coming back with a strong defensive front and playmakers in the backfield who can keep the chains moving.Here are five things to know about South Carolina State this season:
OFFENSIVE HOLES: South Carolina State must find replacements for quarterback Richard Cue, its top two receivers in Tyler McDonald and Caleb Davis, and center Tristan Bellamy who was the MEAC's offensive lineman of the year in 2013. Sophomore Adrian Kollock has the edge at quarterback while Dennis Rowe figures to step up at receiver. Everyone else on the offensive line is back and should provide a comfort level while freshman Victor Ishmael Jr. settles in at center.
TAYLOR TIME: Running back will be one of the Bulldogs' deepest spots led by junior Jalen Simmons and Kentucky transfer Justin Taylor. Simmons rushed for 515 yards in 2012 before missing last season with an injury. Taylor stepped in with 706 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
MISSING THOMAS: The defense will certainly miss linebacker Joe Thomas, who led the Bulldogs with 116 tackles. South Carolina State, though, will rely on defensive linemen Andrew Carter (11 sacks in 2013) and Alexander Glover (nine sacks).
ONE-GAME SEASON?: The Bulldogs were picked second in the MEAC this summer behind Bethune-Cookman, who they shared the title with a year ago. The teams play at South Carolina State on Oct. 25 in what, again, should decide the conference title.
PLAYOFF HURDLE: South Carolina State has done well getting to the FCS playoffs (four times in six years), but has gone 0-5 since its last playoff victory in 1982. Pough hopes to break that string this fall.
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