SC State has a chance to prove Saturday at UNC Charlotte, a team Pough knows will be better than their 2022 record indicates.
“I’m sure they’re a vastly improved team than what they were last season,” Pough said of the 49ers, who finished 3-8 in their final year in the American Athletic Conference. “They’re a high-scoring team, so they’ve shown the base for having talent on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve got our work cut out for us right now.”
The Bulldogs were ambushed by Jackson State 37-7 in Atlanta last week, and Pough knows his team was outgunned but believes they have an important character trait going for them moving forward.
“Jackson came out and played really well. Defensively we struggled to stop them, they threw it around pretty good, and offensively we didn’t do much,” he said. “The one great thing about our kids is they’re pretty resilient, they don’t have long memories for games like that. Two days later, they’ve moved on, so I think our guys will be fine.”
“First order of business is for us to play better. We want to have something to celebrate at the end,” he said. “At the end of the season, we’ll be able to sit down and reminisce, but right now, it’s all about the next game.”
Pough decided the time was right, and even as he prepared to make his exit as a coach, he still planned to be around the university and the program.
“I kinda knew it was that time. I want to give the university an opportunity to set the program straight for the future,” he explains. “I look forward to being in the community and being a positive influence on what we do the rest of this life.”
Pough understands what it’s like to fill big shoes – he replaced his college coach, mentor, and friend Willie Jeffries following the 2001 season. His plan is to give back to his successor and the university as Jeffries did.
“I followed the greatest South Carolina State’s ever had,” Pough said. “It was scary as all get out. He had such a great touch with everything, how he handled everything, and how we enjoyed his presence. I look forward to being able to help the next guy and do what Coach Jeffries did for me. If I can do that, I’ll be good.”
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