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The silver lining in college football money games
S.C. State coach sees opportunity for best players
Published Wednesday, October 2, 2019 8:05 am
by Bonitta Best | The Triangle Tribune

S.C. State football coach Buddy Pough sees opportunity for his best players to make a name for themselves in games against FCS competition.

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Like most HBCU football coaches, South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough has played his share of “money games.”

Over the years, the Bulldogs have lost 59-0 and 73-7 to Clemson. And while the debate continues over whether these games help or hurt HBCUs, Pough sees a silver lining – outside of that paycheck.

S.C. State has the most HBCU players in the NFL: Darius Leonard (Colts), Justin Evans (Bengals), Antonio Hamilton (Giants), Javon Hargrove (Steelers) and Joe Thomas (Cowboys). All told, 57 players have been drafted in SCSU history.

Pough says it’s those money games that give players an opportunity to shine on a bigger stage.

Case in point: In their 59-0 loss to Clemson in 2016, Leonard amassed 19 tackles (8 solo). Although he already was on the scouting radar, that performance raised his stock tremendously.

Leonard was drafted in 2018 by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round and is rewriting the Colts record books. He led the NFL in tackles and was named a first-team All-Pro and defensive rookie of the year. And, after just one season, he was voted into the NFL Top 100.

Now, another Bulldog is getting that attention. Senior wide receiver De’Montrez Burroughs caught 6 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in a 55-16 loss at South Florida.

Although a few scouts were already checking out Burroughs, Pough said that number has doubled since his performance against USF.

“If you want to play the game at the highest level, you’ve got to play through to the highest level in your college career,” Pough said. “You’ve got to play your best.”

Take away the eight turnovers and S.C. State was right there with the Knights. But you can’t fumble the ball five times and throw three interceptions against any team and expect to win.

Pough admits the players were starting to believe their own press clippings.

“Not to take anything away from South Florida, but they didn’t get our best game,” he said. “We got the big head being 2-0. The loss will make us focus on our next game.

The Bulldogs have an unusual two-week bye. They open their MEAC schedule on October 5 at Delaware State.

Bonitta Best is sports editor at The Triangle Tribune in Durham.


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