SSU hopes to show improvement against Colorado State
Posted: September 4, 2015 - 5:04pm | Updated: September 4, 2015 - 6:58pm
By Donald Heath
Their record speaks volumes, but the Savannah State Tigers say it doesn’t tell the entire story.
“We’re at lot more further ahead than we were the last two years,” said SSU coach Earnest Wilson, whose squad opens the football season today in Fort Collins, Colo., against Colorado State.
The Tigers (0-12 in 2014) will enter with a 21-game losing streak — tied with Columbia University for the longest losing streak in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“There’s a mental side along with a physical side of football and last year we weren’t there (mentally),” SSU quarterback Tino Smith said. “Losing is a tough pill to swallow, but you can use it as a good thing. You can go out with a chip on your shoulder. Everyone’s goal here is to change (the losing).”
Savannah State, which plays with 58-59 scholarship athletes, hasn’t fared well against the Football Bowl Subdivision, where most schools compete with the maximum 85 scholarships.
During the last three years, the Tigers are 0-7 against full-fledged FBS programs and been outscored 490-26.
On the positive side, SSU will come home with a $300,000 check from its date with the Rams, which goes a long way toward helping the $5.1 million athletic budget.
Wilson hopes to see improvement on the field.
“Even though the record was bad, we’ve taken steps,” said Wilson, who points to an extra coach on the staff and better recruiting for improvement.
Still, inexperience is found everywhere you look with 59 freshmen and sophomores on SSU’s roster. To make matters worse, the young players have gotten fewer repetitions in practice. Academic Progress Rate issues forced the Tigers to cancel spring workouts and restrict game-week practice time to 14 hours. (The NCAA allows other schools 20 hours to be dedicated to football.)
Wilson said the school decided to play just a 10-game schedule this season to self-impose APR penalties.
Amid this backdrop, SSU tackles a Colorado State squad that finished 10-3 last season, 6-2 in the competitive Mountain West Conference, and advanced to the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Rams will be coached by former-University of Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. He literally and figuratively brought over a friend — Will Friend, Georgia’s offensive line coach for four seasons — to serve as CSU’s offensive coordinator.
“We have to respect everybody we play,” said Bobo, when he met the CSU media Monday. “That’s what we’re working on as a football team, and that’s our message.”
Colorado State loses Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Garrett Grayson, who threw for 4,006 yards and 32 touchdowns a year ago, but returns one of the best receivers in the nation, Rashard Higgins, who caught 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Savannah State, from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, counters with Smith, who threw for 849 yards and five touchdowns. Speedy running back Richard Williams topped the squad with 370 rushing yards and three scores.
Wilson said local products former Memorial Day star Deric Wright and former Hilton Head High star Joey Maddox would start at wide receiver and offensive guard, respectively.
Former Bible Baptist star William Campbell, a safety who was running with the first-teamers during preseason camp, will be out with a knee injury.
“We have more talent,” Wilson said. “In the past, 3 of 11 could play with the (I-A) guys. Now we feel like 8 of the 11 can give a solid fight.” http://savannahnow.com/sports/2015-09-04/ssu-hopes-show-improvement-against-colorado-state