College Football: S.C. State faces tough test in Boone
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough has fought for seven years to get into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. So he doesn’t mind getting sent Saturday to play three-time defending national champion Appalachian State at home, where the Mountaineers have won 41 of their last 42 games.
“If for some reason, we should be fortunate enough to actually win a game of this sort, there would be no doubt in my mind that we could win the rest of them, so let’s go ahead and do it now and get it over with,” Pough said.
South Carolina State (10-2) will try to become the first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team to win a playoff game since 1999 against Appalachian State (10-2).
The Mountaineers are the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and Pough is ready to see what his Bulldogs can do against a team that Pough compared favorably to Clemson and Central Florida ó the two higher level teams who gave them their only losses this season. He compared it to fighting Muhammad Ali, wondering if his players can “get in there and slug it out with these guys.”
South Carolina State will have to find a way to slow down quarterback Armanti Edwards, who sat out to rest an injured hip last week, but says he is healed and ready to go Saturday. The junior is Appalachian State’s leading rusher at 81 yards a game and has thrown for 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions this year.
Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said if anyone can figure out a way to slow Edwards, it’s a Bulldogs defense that’s allowing 11.3 points a game to teams on the FCS level or below.
“Nobody has even scored against South Carolina State in the last three ball games. They’ve got over 100-something plays for losses. It’s a real challenge for us,” Moore said.
Win or lose Saturday, Pough is enjoying his first trip to the playoffs after years of agony. The Bulldogs finished second in the MEAC in four of the past five seasons. They shared the league title in 2004, but lost the automatic playoff bid in a tiebreaker.
“It’s almost disheartening to have some of the experience we have, being as close as we were. It was getting to the point where we were about to jump off a cliff,” Pough said. “To get it done here in the fashion that we did was really gratifying because we kicked the door in.”