In reviewing our season opening opponent, South Carolina State (Bulldogs), the one item that immediately jumps out is that they not only return their starting quarterback from last season, Malcolm Long, who threw for about 250 yards per game and twenty (20) touchdowns, but this kid is probably the largest quarterback that I can remember seeing in recent time on a college football field. He is listed at 6′ 3″, 261 Lbs., which means he is probably a biscuit or 2 even heavier than that. With that size, we certainly don’t want to see him running down the field with the ball in his hand, and we better bring him down for a sack when he is in the pocket looking to pass the ball. Malcolm certainly presents an interesting challenge for our defense in their first game under Al Groh, and he will be quite a load to tackle no matter where he is on the field. He was also the MEAC Conference player of the year last season.
This game is also scheduled for television on ESPN 3, probably the same program as ESPN 360 which can be accessed on the internet. I watched a couple of games last year this way. Not as much fun as the large screen, but it gets the job accomplished. Last year South Carolina State lost only 2 games; Division 1 (SEC Conference) South Carolina 38 to 14 in Columbia, and Appalachian State 20 to 13 in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs. In that playoff game, Malcolm Long threw a season high 3 interceptions that ended their quest in the first round. However, they went undefeated in their conference which says quite a bit about their ability as a football team. In fact, they have won their conference (MEAC) two consecutive years, and currently have a 19 game conference winning streak heading into the 2010 season. They have also won this conference 10 times since the inception of the MEAC. They know how to play football and win Championships in Orangeburg.
Their playoff loss last season to Appalachian State was in the 4th quarter with the score tied at 13, and the Bulldogs going for a game winning 32 yard field goal. The snap was botched creating a fumble that was bouncing around for another 20 yards before being picked up and returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Appalachian State to win the game and move into the next round of the playoffs. The opening game against Georgia Tech will be the Bulldogs first opportunity to get rid of the taste of that season ending loss in the playoffs.
On the bright side South Carolina State, I just hate using the word Bulldogs any more than absolutely necessary, lost their 3 top receivers, as well as the MEAC all time leading rusher. So they will have to fill those slots with newer folks on the roster. However, they do return 4 starters on the offensive line including 2 pre-season All American selections; Johnny Culbreath, 6′ 6″ 310 Lbs. at tackle who was also the MEAC offensive lineman of the year, and Josh Harrison, 6′ 4″ 290 Lbs. at the other tackle slot. So this game will be an early test for Al Groh and the Yellow Jackets new 3/4 defense.
On the defensive side of the football they have another pre-season All American selection at linebacker in David Erby, 6′ 1″, 215 Lbs. to lead their squad. This defense gave up a meager 254 yards per game last season, and they have a very strong tradition of defensive players in the NFL with such notable alumni as; Hall of Famer defensive end David “Deacon” Jones, of the Los Angeles Rams and the “Fearsome Foursome” from the 1960′s and 70′s, along with Donnie Shell, who was a strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers on several of their Super Bowl teams in the 70′s. So the school, albeit a smaller institution, has produced some stalwart players who have achieved success at the next level. This is not an opponent to be taken lightly and should present a challenge for the triple option offense.
The key to this game will be the experience in the secondary for Georgia Tech as South Carolina State breaks in some new personnel at the wide receiver position. Al Groh will need to get some pressure on Mr. Long and hopefully cause some passes to be intercepted to go along with a few sacks to curtail his effectiveness. With no disrespect intended for either Jacksonville State or Samford (more Bulldogs), South Carolina State is a school that has a winning tradition and dominates their conference.
What it all means is they have a tradition that goes along with all of those accomplishments and will prepare them to play against a BCS opponent without being intimidated. They are not looking at this game as merely a paycheck! In fact, they are looking to use this game as not only a springboard to rid themselves of last season’s horrible ending playoff loss, but also set the tone for another MEAC Championship run. Which is why all of the Yellow Jacket fans need to come to the game and cheer on the Yellow Jackets as opposed to saying that it is too hot to watch a football game and staying home. We need to fill up Bobby Dodd each and every home game to show our team that we appreciate their efforts on the gridiron regardless of the reading on a thermometer. Go Jackets!