- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - Some ties are worse than others. South Carolina State understands that all too well after last season.

The Bulldogs finished in a five-way tie for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title a year ago, but was not close to earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.

South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough still stings at what could have been with his team ahead 21-17 at Morgan State with less than a minute to go. That’s when Morgan State quarterback Moses Skillon scrambled for a 9-yard, game-winning TD that took control of the title and the Football Conference Subdivision playoffs out of the Bulldogs control.

“We had it hand,” Pough said. “I think this team wants to be a little different than that team” from 2014.

One thing that should be the same for the Bulldogs is a fierce some defense led by lineman Javon Hargrave. The defending MEAC defensive player of the year had 16 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.



Hargrave notched six sacks in a win over Bethune-Cookman last season.

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Things to watch at South Carolina State in 2015:

STRONG BACKFIELD: Jalen Simmons returns to a backfield for his senior year after rushing for 1,082 yards, becoming the first to break the 1,000-yard barrier since Will Ford did it in 2009. Nicknamed “Scoot,” Simmons has the ability to break off long runs, yet hasn’t done it as frequently as coach Buddy Pough wants. “To be a home-run hitter, you’ve got to hit home runs,” Pough said. “Scoot can do it, we just want to see it more.”

QUARTERBACK PRESSURE: Adrian Kollock played 11 games last year and returns as the most experience QB on the roster. That has not stopped the Bulldogs from bringing four freshmen at the position to put some pressure on Kollock to improve. It’s all part of the game, said Kollock, a redshirt junior who threw for 1,244 yards and seven touchdowns along with seven interceptions.

CLOWNEY OF FCS: While he’s not as tall as the former South Carolina All-American, defensive lineman Javon Hargrave may be just as difficult to contain. Hargrave, at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, had 55 tackles last season, 23.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage. South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said opponents have used exotic schemes to limit without much affect.

CRUCIAL START: South Carolina State will be tested early on, opening the season at in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando, Florida against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, then returning home to face Coastal Carolina, which was the No. 1 team in FCS for two weeks last season. The Bulldogs do not, however, play a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this season. Next season, South Carolina State takes on South Carolina.

MONEY WOES: It was not an easy offseason for the Bulldogs and coach Buddy Pough, who wondered if he would even have a team to field this fall. Declining enrollment and continued money problems had the university in a free fall and some state lawmakers voting to suspend operations for two years - a measure that ultimately did not come to pass.

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