South Carolina State vs. Alabama A&M football
Photo: Myron Shuler

South Carolina State has punched its ticket to the Celebration Bowl — a first for the program that was preseason favorites to win the MEAC.

The Bulldogs clinched a berth in the bowl game against the SWAC champion on Dec. 18 in Atlanta after Norfolk State lost last Saturday at Delaware State, though head coach Buddy Pough was confounded the result came in a loss to North Carolina A&T.

“It’s the strangest feeling I’ve had, maybe ever, having lost a game and trying to get the sense that we earned our way into a bowl game,” Pough said Monday. “We’re excited, it’s a great opportunity for our university, our team and our fans.”

There is still one game left to play before the group gets nearly a month off.

Also read: South Carolina State clinches Celebration Bowl berth despite loss to North Carolina A&T

Norfolk State, which was in a position to win the league title before losing its last two after blowing fourth-quarter leads, presents one final challenge for South Carolina State to finish the season above .500 in the regular-season finale.

“It’s still a big game,” Pough said. “We really want to win this game, to go into the bowl with a winning record, and go in with some momentum. If we don’t find a way to play better on offense, our entire two-week preparation will be dedicated to figuring out our ills. I would like to think, with a win, we could maybe relax during the Thanksgiving break, but the intensity level will certainly rise if we lose this week.”

But to accomplish that feat, the Bulldogs will likely be without starting quarterback Corey Fields, who sustained a shoulder injury in the 27-17 loss to the Aggies.

“We’re trying to figure out what to do at quarterback,” Pough said. “He’s in some pain, and I don’t know how far we can get him before Saturday.”

If Fields can’t go against the Spartans, sophomore backup Quincy Hill, who threw for 136 yards to go along with one interception in relief last week, will start, said Pough.

“It gives us a chance to give him some good solid work this week,” Pough said. “(Saturday) we had to rely on what we saw in the spring, when Quincy played quite a bit, to try and tailor a game plan toward his skill set. It was an interesting day.”


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