ORANGEBURG,SC (October 7, 2023)–After a 0-3 start, South Carolina State is fighting to get back to .500 before opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play in two weeks.

The Bulldogs took a big step toward that goal Saturday with a 56-6 victory over Virginia University-Lynchburg at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium and Willie Jeffries Field.

“It was probably our most complete game of the season,” SC State head coach Buddy Pough said after the win. “We got a pretty good thing going, and we’re starting to run the football.”

South Carolina State rushed for 273 yards as a team Saturday with four different players scoring rushing touchdowns. The Bulldogs were led by Jawarn Howell who had 76 yards on six carries. Nine different players had at least one carry in the victory.

“It was the offensive line effort that got the running game going,” Pough said. “It started with Tray Franklin who was making his first start today. It seemed to go pretty good. He’s that big body we need on the offensive line to create some movement, and we saw that movement today. If our offensive line keeps improving, we have a chance to compete in our league by running the football. That makes all the difference in the world.”

The Bulldogs were dominant in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) including getting a special teams touchdown to open the game.

After holding VUL on three-straight downs, SC State’s Jayvion Snow blocked a punt that was picked up by Aiden Weber who rumbled 12 yards for the first touchdown of Saturday’s game.

“It felt great (getting that return),” Weber said after the game. “That really gave us a lot of momentum early, and helped us to continue to play great. I’m just blessed to have that experience.”

South Carolina State’s offense would score on six of its eight possession in the first half. Corey Fields missed some early passes, finishing 5-of-12, but three of his completion went for touchdowns.

Justin Smith-Brown continues to work back from an early season injury as he led SC State with two catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Smith and Howell each had one catch that went for a touchdown.

“It was kind of a bumpy first half, I missed on a couple of throws,” Fields said. “But, the offensive line did a great job getting out in front on the screen passes (for touchdowns).”

Defensively, South Carolina State gave up just 47 yards rushing and had 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. The Bulldogs also won the turnover battle as Jamare Benjamin and Michael Brunson each had interceptions. Brunson’s interception came in the second half after he had a chance for a first pick earlier in the game.

“You just have to make the most of your opportunities,” Brunson said. “I actually had a chance at three interceptions, but this secondary is just playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Brunson, a former Calhoun County standout said he had a lot of friends and family in the stands to see him perform Saturday.

“I could hear them calling my name the whole game,” Brunson said with a grin.

Jadin Jones led SC State’s defense with six tackles while Aaron Smith finished with five tackles including two sacks and two tackles for loss. Jamal McKinley, Naejuan Barber and Ashaad Hall each added sacks.

South Carolina State will try to pull even on the season next week when they play host to Tennessee Tech.