NC A&T may be winless, but South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough knows it is far from toothless.
“A&T is 0-3, and everybody thinks they are just awful. I can tell you, there’s nothing further from the truth,” Pough said. “If you look at their stats from the three games that they’ve played — nothing is further from the truth. If you look at their stats from the three games they’ve played, they’re almost even in most of the critical categories except for actual scoring. But when you start talking about total offense and defensive averages and all that stuff — A&T is still A&T.”
Pough well-versed in A&T, South Carolina State rivalry
If anyone should know, it’s Pough. He’s battled A&T since his days as a player at South Carolina State back in the 1970s. The two teams have met 58 times, and Pough has been a part of many of those battles.
“We went for a long time winning games against A&T, and all of the sudden, the got the tides turned on us,” Pough said on the MEAC Weekly Media call.
Pough won each of his first 10 matchups with A&T as a head coach, but has won just two matchups in the last decade, and has lost six in a row to them.
“We thought that we had a great plan to get into the Celebration Bowl years back. And these guys continually stymied us. They just kind of beat us to the punch in a whole lot of different ways. I’m jealous of these guys.”
A turning point in the rivalry came in 2015 when SC State attempted to fake a punt with a lead and found itself on the wrong end of a 9-6 loss that helped propel A&T to the inaugural Celebration Bowl.
“Still hadn’t quite figured out exactly what happened there, but that seems to have started it all. And from that point — we’ve been cursed. We’ve been trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Pough said, half-jokingly. “I guess we’ve got to win a game at A&T. We had a gave them a game in Orangeburg a few years back, it’s our job now to go back and take it back from them up in Greensboro. The pain that we’ve felt for all these years that we’ve had is one that we’ve got to figure out how we can take back on our side.”
Of course, A&T and SC State are no longer conference rivals. A&T left the MEAC for the Big South last year and will head to the Colonial Athletic Association next fall.
“They can run but they can’t hide,” Pough said with a typically jovial laugh. “We’re going to find them wherever they are.”
SC State passing game could use more efficiency
South Carolina State enters Saturday 1-1 after coming off a bye. The defending MEAC Champion features a legit pro prospect in wide receiver Shaquan Davis, but his quarterback Corey Fields is currently completing just 35 percent of his passes through the first two weeks. Pough said that while he’d like Fields to be more efficient, he’s going to continue to roll with the man that came up big in the Celebration Bowl last year.
“What we try to do is make up for it by — when he does make one — make it a big play,” Pough said. “We’d like for him to be in the 60 to 70 percent range as far as completion percentage is concerned, but we can’t lose sleep over it. We gotta understand he’s mostly going to be a big-play guy so the ones that he does hit, we’re gonna think that those guys gotta be to the house.”
The game will serve as A&T’s home opener at Truist Field, and Pough expects to see a big crowd as South Carolina State comes in looking for the upset.
“I think this will be a big game, not only for both teams, but also attendance-wise for the fans. The South Carolina State folk love to travel to Greensboro. It’s a joyous, wonderful occasion. You can pretty much bet that it will darn near be packed.”