COLUMBIA — South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough was relieved to get his first win of the season last week, but that feeling won’t last long if his Bulldogs lose to Division II Benedict in the Palmetto Capital City Classic on Saturday in Columbia.
“We like to think we’re a cut above them, like Clemson when we play them. But I don’t know if there is that much space between Clemson and South Carolina State as there is between South Carolina State and Benedict,” Pough said.
In other games Saturday involving South Carolina’s Football Championship Subdivision teams, Coastal Carolina hosts Hampton; Charleston Southern travels to Norfolk State; Wofford hosts Gardner-Webb; and The Citadel travels to Old Dominion.
In Columbia, South Carolina State (1-2) is renewing its rivalry with Benedict (2-0). The two historically-black colleges have only played sporadically recently, with the Bulldogs handling their lower-division opponents easily. Pough is 4-0 against Benedict in his 12 years coaching South Carolina State, winning the games by an average of 42 points.
But the Tigers have a little more bite this year. They lead Division II in defense, allowing 129 yards a game. And Benedict coach James Woody wants his team to show no fear when they take the field at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We’re not intimidated at all,” Woody said. “They put their pants on like we put our pants on. They have helmets, we have helmets. We’re going to go out there on that field and see what happens.”
Pough said South Carolina State will need a big game from senior receiver Tyler McDonald, who is on his way to setting several records. He needs just 18 catches and 390 receiving yards to break Oliver “Tre” Young’s school records in each category set four years ago.
In Conway, Coastal Carolina (3-0) will try to continue the best start in program history against Hampton (0-3).
The Chanticleers have five Big South Conference titles and three FCS playoff bids in 12 years of football, but they have never started a season 3-0. Going back to last season, Coastal Carolina has won nine of 10 games under second-year coach Joe Moglia with the only loss coming in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
The Chanticleers have never played Hampton before. The Pirates’ offense has struggled this season, averaging less than 11 points a game and gaining just 226 yards – the fifth worst in FCS.
Coastal Carolina’s offense is still humming. The Chanticleers are tops in the Big South, averaging 38 points and 458 yards a game so far this season.
Hampton coach Donovan Rose expects a playoff-like atmosphere at Brooks Stadium on Saturday.
In Norfolk, Va., Charleston Southern (3-0) will try to keep new coach Jamey Chadwell’s record unblemished against Norfolk State (0-2).
The Buccaneers have been the surprise of the college football season in South Carolina, knocking off rival The Citadel in the opener and keeping the momentum going. Just two years ago, Charleston Southern was in the midst of a 16-game losing streak.
Chadwell said Norfolk State’s record is deceiving and the game will be tougher because the Spartans had a bye last week. “Norfolk is by far the best team we’ve seen personnel wise all year,” Chadwell said.
In Spartanburg, Wofford (2-1) takes a break from the Southern Conference with a game against Gardner-Webb (2-1).
The Terriers have won six straight over the Bulldogs, but Gardner-Webb has upset both Southern Conference foe Furman and nationally ranked Richmond already this year.
“They are a sound football team – very athletic and very physical,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said.
Gardner-Webb is winning in part thanks to a good defense against the run. The Bulldogs are the best in the Big South, allowing just 108 yards on the ground a game.
Running is almost all Wofford does in it finely-honed triple option attack. The Terriers have the 12th best rushing attack in the nation at 242 yards a game.
In Norfolk, Va., The Citadel (1-2) steps up to play Old Dominion (1-2), who is in its first year in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Monarchs played their first FCS team of the season last week and gained 733 yards in a 76-19 win over Howard.
“This is an outstanding offense,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said. “They scored on the first seven possessions and had over 500 yards in the first half last week.”
The Bulldogs are also coming off their first win last week, beating Western Carolina, which was important to keep this season from falling apart early, Higgins said.