Monday, October 26, 2009

Bulldogs win over Pirates

Bulldogs put the bite on Pirates' celebration

By THOMAS GRANT JR., T&D Senior Sports Writer Monday, October 26, 2009

HAMPTON, Va. — The Hampton fans were preparing for a Pirate celebration Saturday at Armstrong Stadium to cap homecoming weekend.

Once the final whistle sounded, 10th-ranked South Carolina State turned the festivities into a Bulldog party. With throngs of enthusiastic supporters filling the visiting bleachers, the Bulldogs pulled out a 21-9 victory over the Pirates for their 15th consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference win.

The win not only secured a second straight homecoming win at a stadium where S.C. State was 0-5 prior to 2007, but also sole possession of first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. As S.C. State (6-1, 4-0) struggled to put the Pirates away after seeing its 14-0 halftime lead whittle to five points, Morgan State had fallen to Delaware State 35-22.

A fumble recovery by LaTaris Douglas off a fake punt attempt by Isiah Thomas set up a 20-yard touchdown catch by Richard Christie from quarterback Malcolm Long with 4:23 left which secured the win.

It was the third touchdown of the game for Long, who overcame two interceptions to finish with a season-high 234 yards on 21-26 passing.

“It was a tough game for us and I was not surprised at all at the resolve of Hampton coming in here,” S.C. State head football coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough. “We’ve never had an easy game here and we had no reason to think it would not be a tough game. They sort of set a trap for us by not playing so well the week before (a 46-6 loss to crosstown rival Norfolk State), but at the same time, I knew they would play well today.”

Long wasted little time quieting the Pirates’ home crowd with two first-half touchdown passes. Continuing the season-long trend of scoring on the opening drive, it took Long just 73 seconds to move the Bulldogs 45 yards for the game’s first score on a 22-yard pass to Chris Massey.

It was Massey’s first collegiate touchdown and the PAT by Blake Erickson made it 7-0.

In the second quarter, Long connected with Terrance Smith, who broke through two Pirate tacklers en route to a 13-yard touchdown. Long was 5-5 passing for 51 yards on the 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, completing passes to four different players.

Long finished the first half 12-15 passing for 136 yards, while counterpart Herbert Bynes, who finished 7-16, passing for 63 yards.

Despite finding a measure of success running the football out of the Wildcat formation, Hampton was held to just 79 first-half yards, 20 by MEAC leading rusher LaMarcus Coker, who finished with a game-high 75 yards.

The second half opened with Hampton’s Richardo Silva picking off Long’s pass and returning it to the S.C. State 36. Hampton settled for a 26-yard field goal by Jordan Stovall to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to

14-3 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.

S.C. State was moving the football to the Hampton 28 on its next series when Long’s intended pass deflected off the receiver and into the hands of Jacobi Fenner. The Pirates capitalized this time with a 15-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by Coker’s one-yard run on fourth down.

Hampton opted for the two-point conversion, but David Erby made a swift tackle to hold the score at 14-9 with 11:59 remaining.

“The guys kept inside and kept working despite the adversity, but we seem to find a way to kind of get a play that makes us unable to sustain a drive,” Hampton head coach Donovan Rose said.

Unable to run the football sufficiency as it was held to a season-low 64 yards, S.C. State’s offense continued to stall. Another brief drive gave the Pirates the football back with second-half momentum. Using Steve Robinson and Coker in the Wildcat, Hampton kept moving the football downfield on the ground to the tune of 134 yards.

A key chop block penalty and a sack by Antuanne Kerr on third down forced a Hampton punt. As Jahmal Blanchard awaited the punt, the direct snap instead went to Thomas, who fumbled the football.

As Thomas was tackled to the ground, Douglas made the recovery for the Bulldogs at the 36.

“I wanted to do something to spark it,” Rose said. “I know initially if they were gathering in the safe mode, we would have called it off. We were all working on it and the guy just had a bad snap. It was a counter and based on what the guys on the field said, it would have been a big play and a touchdown. But the guy fumbled the football and they made the recovery.”

“If not for that chop block, I don’t know if we would have won the football game,” Pough said.

Two straight passes from Long to Christie, the latter going for 20 yards into the endzone with 4:23 remaining, provided S.C. State with the final margin to secure its eight straight conference road win.

After playing the role of homecoming spoiler on Saturday, S.C. State will try to avoid the same fate on Halloween against Delaware State.

Ironically, it was the Hornets who handed S.C. State its last conference loss 17-16 two years ago on homecoming.

Bulldog Bites

Saturday was Hampton’s third straight homecoming loss and second to S.C. State ... Running back Will Ford was held to a season-low 41 yards, leaving him 454 yards shy of Hampton’s Alonzo Coleman’s MEAC career rushing mark ... Julius Wilkerson led S.C. State with 10 tackles, while Hampton linebacker had 13 tackles ... S.C. State improved to 57-6 under Pough when leading at halftime and is 19-6 in MEAC road games. The Bulldogs’ conference home record is 20-6.

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