NCCU to host tough S.C. State on ESPNU Thursday night
N.C. Central bucked tradition a year ago and took it to S.C. State in a 40-10 win on a big stage.
The Bulldogs for years marked their territory in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with league championships and appearances in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
In 2012, NCCU was in the FCS for just its second season, yet at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, the Eagles made a statement with a 30-point, second-quarter explosion to win the Circle City Classic “We played them last year in Indianapolis, and they embarrassed us there,” S.C. State coach Buddy Pough said. “They beat us really badly.”
It’s not like the Bulldogs never had been taken to the woodshed.
“I’ve had some good butt cuttings in my time, now,” Pough said.
But that spanking from NCCU was especially memorable.
Last season was a down year for the Bulldogs, while the Eagles ascended to their first winning record since 2007.
There’s a lot of football left in this season, but S.C. State has some steam, coming off a win against N.C. A&T, which had been one of the hottest squads in the MEAC.
“We didn’t just beat any ol’ team, but, at the same time, after you get done with a game, you pretty much move on to the next team,” Pough said. “North Carolina Central is a pretty good attention getter.
“If we don’t get prepared for them, then it’ll be ugly again in Durham this coming Thursday night.”
S.C. State (4-2, 2-0 MEAC) and NCCU (3-2, 1-0 MEAC) will get together on another grand stage during Thursday’s nationally televised game at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).
NCCU got a weekend win at Howard even though Bison quarterback Greg McGhee threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Howard has the top offense in the MEAC.
S.C. State will show up in Durham with the league’s No. 2 offense.
“They can run the ball very, very well and will keep running it until you stop it. There’s no question about that,” NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said.
It’s never a good idea to allow potent offenses to keep holding on to the ball, Foster said. The Eagles must be committed to getting the Bulldogs off the field on third downs, he said. NCCU didn’t do that against Howard, and the Eagles’ defenders were wearing down after getting some extra rest from a bye week. NCCU potentially will go into the game against S.C. State with even less rest because of the Thursday slot.
S.C. State quarterback Richard Cue has long, fast receivers as targets, Foster said. NCCU’s defensive front will have to chase hard after Cue, disrupting life in the passing lanes, Foster said.
Both teams feature redshirt senior quarterbacks. Having Cue under center allows the Bulldogs to do a lot of things offensively, Foster said. Pough said the same thing about NCCU’s Jordan Reid.
“Their quarterback, Jordan Reid, puts so much pressure on you by the fact that he can run the ball,” Pough said.
In the fourth quarter against Howard, Reid surveyed the other side of the line of scrimmage and saw a wrinkle. He changed the play on the spot and finished ripping the unraveling seam in the Bison’s scheme for a 54-yard touchdown sprint that cushioned the Eagles’ lead.
“They started slanting,” Reid said. “I had a two-on-one match-up backside. It was an option play, and I just took it to the house for my team.”
Reid is smart like that, Foster said.
“It was something we saw throughout the week, and we said, ‘If we got it J-Reid, look, you need to check to that.’ And he did,” Foster said.
Reid was 9 of 19 passing for 54 yards. That’s not tearing it up through the air, but he can sling it, Foster said.
“We know we can throw it well when we have to,” Foster said.
Add to that the noise that running back Idreis Augustus is starting to make out of NCCU’s backfield, and the Bulldogs have a sure-enough fight on their hands, Pough said.
“You’ve got a situation here where these guys have a great understanding of a lot of different styles of offensive concepts, and they attack from a lot of different ways,” Pough said.