Bethune-Cookman @ South Carolina State
by, 10-16-2010 at 01:50 PM (1218 Views)
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — After 18 years of covering the Football Championship Subdivision, one of the most exciting things for me to do on a Saturday is to get in the car and travel to a venue for the first time.
One of the top venues on my wish list has been Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on the South Carolina State campus, so sitting in the press box for Saturday's Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference showdown allowed me to put another notch in my Mac iBook.
In the press box, I was greeted by two SC State icons, Hall of Fame sports information director Bill Hamilton and legendary coach Willie Jeffries.
Jeffries, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in July, said he doesn't miss the practices and preparations that proceed a big game.
"We were practicing at 8:30 p.m.," Jeffries said. "Getting home at midnight every night after practice took its toll after five years."
But game day is a different thing for Jeffries.
"I still wish I was on the sidelines for games like this."
Dawson Stadium is a sparkling 22,000-seat facility that sits proudly on the edge of the SC State campus and the Orangeburg community was alive with football activity on this game day.
In a way, you could call this place the house that Jeffries built.
There was a sizable traveling group from Bethune-Cookman, as the Wildcats fans bask in the unexpected success of a 5-0 start and a No. 23 national ranking.
Picked to finish eighth in a preseason MEAC poll, B-CU is in position to take control of the league championship chase with a win on Saturday.
It is the first 5-0 start for the Wildcats since 2003.
There was plenty of criticism for the Bethune-Cookman administration when it fired long-time coach, program builder and all-around personality Alvin Wyatt after a 5-6 record.
New coach Brian Jenkins, a no-nonsense kind of guy, may not have the most entertaining coaches show in the country, like Wyatt arguably did.
For South Carolina State, this is a speed bump in the midst of what is viewed as a Renaissance year for the proud Bulldog program of coach Buddy Pough.
After winning back-to-back MEAC titles and advancing to the FCS playoffs the past two years, SC State was "rewarded" with first round trips to Appalachian State.
This year, the goal has been to earn a top-five seed so the Bulldogs can draw a home game — and avoid Appalachian State — in the first round.
A win over the surprising Wildcats would go a long way towards SC State reaching that goal.