In football, there is a fine line between good and great teams. Great teams can take the field facing extreme adversity and fight to win when the odds are stacked against them. It can be said that a great team took the field on Saturday in North Charleston as the Dins overcame it all to beat the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 24-19.
Charleston Southern, winless on the season, came into the game looking to capitalize on any mistake the Paladins could make, hoping to earn their first win of the season and truly test the resolve of the Paladin football team.
The Paladin defense showed up early as Micah Robinson picked off Charleston Southern QB Ross Malmgren. Both teams would then play “hot potato” as they exchanged fumbles, resulting in the Dins finally taking hold and knocking down an Alex Lepvreau field goal from thirty yards out to jump to a 3-0 lead.
Early on, it seemed the Paladins could not execute on the offensive side of the ball as the Buccaneers came very well prepared for the Byers-Roper offensive scheme. It seemed as if a dark cloud had begun hovering over the offense as they just could not move the ball. After a safety and an interception, the Dins fell to a 9-3 deficit.
After a pep talk, the offense marched down the field. Just when things seemed alright, QB Tyler Huff was taken out of the game by an injury to his non-throwing elbow. Sophomore QB Jace Wilson would step up to the plate with his shifty footwork, capping off the drive with a five-yard touchdown. The Dins would go into halftime with a 10-9 lead.
Emerging from the locker room rejuvenated, the Dins would hope to tough it out despite some nagging injuries on both sides of the ball. And they did exactly, as they emerged victorious at the end of the day, 24-19.
Wilson finished the game with two rushing TDs. RB Dominic Roberto led the way with eighty-eight rushing yards on twenty-one attempts (4.2 AVG). Ryan Miller continued his record-trend with seven-straight games, a receiving touchdown being the cherry on top. He complimented the record-setter with ninety-four receiving yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the ball-hawking secondary showed out as Robinson and Morris were able to grab interceptions while Jalen Miller and Kam Brinson were able to nab two fumbles.
In a postgame interview, head coach Clay Hendrix quickly claimed responsibility for the “execution issues” during the game. “Obviously, we have to clean some stuff up. That is all on me… Some of our players didn’t execute,” Hendrix said. Nonetheless, the effort given by the players despite all the setbacks was monumental. Even if a team is winless in the season, they will do whatever is necessary to set themselves right for the week.
To some, this was an “ugly” victory, but in my opinion, it was a testament to the skill of this tremendously talented football team. If a team is going to have a bad game, it is much better to have it sooner rather than later. When the Dins won the Southern Conference championship and thus were a NCAA D1-AA play-off participant in 1988, they fell to a highly talented Marshall team in an ugly offensive show. After that, they ticked off victory after victory, building on their mistakes in practice and perfecting every facet of the game.