It has been eight years since the Benedict Tigers and S.C. State Bulldogs squared off in the Palmetto City Classic, and longer since the Tigers defeated MEAC’s top ’dogs.
But Benedict looks to better its 2-0 start against S.C. State (1-2) on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Tigers are looking for their third consecutive win and hoping their running game — powered by Tavion Wright and quarterback Marcus Graham — can lead them there. Benedict has tallied 915 yards in its two victories, more than half of that on the ground.
But the Bulldogs have the perfect defense to disrupt that game plan. S.C. State held Alabama A&M to negative-3 yards last week to pick up its first win.
“I like our chances against them,” Benedict coach James Woody said of the Bulldogs’ defense. “They’re very good up front, very good at the linebacker and secondary, but I have confidence in our guys and I think we’ll have some success.”
Graham’s passing has accounted for 223 yards per game and six touchdowns for the Tigers, giving them balance.
And Benedict’s defense could be just as disruptive to the Bulldogs.
The Tigers have Division II’s No. 1 total defense, holding opponents to an average 129 yards per game, and they are second in passing yards allowed. Though the Bulldogs are a run-first squad that averages 162.7 rushing yards per game, the Tigers hope to force them to look to the air. Benedict has allowed 63.5 rushing yards per game and 65.5 passing yards.
With the two squads putting up comparable statistics, the Classic could be more hotly contested than recent meetings.
In five previous games, S.C. State posted lopsided victories, winning by no fewer than 34 points. Coming off the 32-0 win last week, the Bulldogs are looking to build momentum. Outside of the Classic, the last time the two rivals met was 2010, and S.C. State won 61-20.
“We’re not intimidated at all,” Woody said. “They put their pants on like we put our pants on. They have helmets; we have helmets. We’re going to go out there on that field and see what happens.”