ORLANDO, FLA – South Carolina State, after a slow start, exploded for 28-second half points for a 35-7 win over the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff in the 11th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge at The Orlando Citrus Bowl Sunday in a contest that was delayed almost two hours due to weather conditions.
The contest was the season opener for both the Bulldogs, representing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and the Golden Lions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, who were meeting for the first time in their history.
The victory for Coach Buddy Pough’s team was the third in as many appearances in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, a game sponsored by Disney and ESPN, which broadcast the contest live. In its two previous trips to the event, SC State defeated Alabama State 27-14 in the inaugural contest at Birmingham in 2005, and earned a 35-31 victory over Grambling in 2009, after the event was moved to its present site – Orlando.
The Bulldogs, who after winning the toss, deferred to the second half, stopped UAPB and took over at their own 34 after a Matthew Guth punt. Quarterback Adrian Kollock, who was shared the early signal-calling duties with freshman Caleb York, directed a 66-yard, 12-play scoring drive – getting the touchdown himself from six yards out for the Bulldogs first score. Tyler Scandrett added the point-after-touchdown for a 7-0 SC State lead with 9:24 left in the opening quarter.
But that would be the only score of the half for SC State, which had two promising drives cut short by miscues, a Mykal Moody fumble that was recovered by UAPB’s Kyle Walker at midfield at the 6:57 mark of the opening period, and an interception of a Kollock pass by Reggie Rayford at the Gold Lions’ 34-yard line with 2:38 left on the clock.
While the Bulldog defense, led by senior defensive lineman Javon Hargrave kept the Golden Lions at bay, SC State was unable to add to its lead and went to the locker room ahead just 7-0 at the half. Hargrave had six tackles at the half, including four for losses and two sacks, finished with seven stops (2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles in the backfield) and was named the Bulldog MVP for the game. The senior played on a few plays in the second half, none in the final period.
The second half was a different story for SC State, which scored three times in the third stanza and added one fourth-period score, while limiting UAPB to just a touchdown, a 20-yard scoring run by Draylon Willis with 6:31 left in the third period.
Kollock, who eventually gave way to York in the second half, directed a four-play, 55-yard drive and appeared to score his second touchdown of the game, before fumbling in the end zone. An alert Dondre Brown jumped on the loose ball for the Bulldogs for the TD and a 14-0 Bulldog lead following Scrandett’s extra point with 13:47 left in the third.
Just over a minute later, the Bulldog lead grew to 21-0, when reserve linebacker Tevin Richard intercepted a pass by Nolan Sorenson — one of three quarterbacks used by the Golden Lions – and returned it 18 yards for a score with 12:45 left in the third.
The Golden Lions drew to within 21-7 on their next possession when Willis, a backup tailback, culminated a three-play, 80-yard march with a 20 yard run on a draw play. Jamie Gillan added the PAT with 6:31 on the third-period clock.
SC State answered on its next possession, when York at quarterback, directed a seven-play, 75 yard scoring mark, getting the touchdown himself with an 18-yard run. Scandrett tacked on the extra point to put SC State ahead 28-7 with 3:18 left in the third.
The Bulldogs added its final score – a 13-yard run by Justin Taylor on the first play of the final period. The PAT put the Bulldogs ahead 35-7 with 14:55 to play. Despite having several more possessions, neither team could score the rest of the way.
The Golden Lions did move into scoring position after recovering a Bulldog fumble late in the contest, however, Gillan’s 28-yard field goal attempt with 2:27 left was no good.
York led the SC State offense, completing 11 of 20 attempts for 123 yards. He rushed four times for 24 yards and a score. Kollock completed five of 12 attempts for 40 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 40 yards on six carries.
Taquan West and Quan Caldwell had three catches each to lead the Bulldog receivers. West totaled 45 yards receiving while Caldwell had 42.
The Bulldogs played without four players – including last year’s top rusher Jalen Simmons – -who were serving a one-game suspension following a fight with Norfolk State in the 2014 season finale. Other players missing the contest were defensive linemen Greg Newell and James Settles and converted wide receiver Calvin Giles-McCray.
Courtesy: S.C. State Athletics