With back-to-back victories spurred by dominant play in the second half, the Fort Valley State Wildcats will look to continue their winning ways Saturday against struggling Benedict.
The Tigers are 0-3 and have been outscored 128-6, but Wildcats head coach Donald Pittman said his team will not be overlooking the Tigers.
“They have an excellent coaching staff,” Pittman said of Benedict’s first-year staff, which is led by former Albany State head coach Mike White.
White, a six-time SIAC champion, recorded a 112-51 record at Albany State during his 15-year stint and earned SIAC Coach of the Year honors five times.
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“He’s been the most successful coach in this conference, and I have the utmost respect for him,” said Pittman, who served as White’s offensive coordinator at Albany State before taking over at FVSU. “I know it’s just a matter of time for them to get adjusted and be good. If anyone can bring a team back, he’s the one, so this game I’m very, very anxious about.”
The Tigers lost 49-6 to Livingston, 55-0 to Elizabeth City State and 24-0 to Central State. Against Central State, the Tigers had only 68 total yards, including minus-29 rushing.
The Wildcats, on the other hand, registered another strong offensive output in the second half against Clark Atlanta. One week after a 43-point second half against Lane, FVSU scored 21 unanswered in the third and fourth quarters to pull away from Clark Atlanta 35-13.
Pittman said some of the offensive struggles in the first half, during which the team scored a combined 21 points in the two games, can be attributed to good defense and a lack of rhythm.
“Good defenses will make you struggle,” he said. “It kind of takes awhile for you to catch your rhythm. We were just getting our rhythm against Clark and Lane. I don’t think it had anything to do with our kids, more so our opponent.”
Quarterback Otis Brown has steadied the ship at the position after two solid performances, passing for 168 yards and no interceptions against Clark Atlanta -- and Pittman said he “has proven himself as a starter.”
Brown’s rushing threat added to the Wildcats’ 128 rushing yards in the outing, but no one player registered more than seven carries, and FVSU ran the ball 33 times. Jalen White and Germaine Tait each had seven rushes while Brown had six (29 yards). Pittman expects that trend to continue unless something changes.
“We have a number of good running backs, and we’re going to utilize them all,” he said.
Pittman said the rushing attack, along with limiting penalties -- the Wildcats had 10 against Clark Atlanta -- and big plays, will once again be the focus against Benedict.
“We want to sustain some drives,” he said. “We don’t want to just have three downs-and-out. We want to control the ball; we want to be able to run the ball on Benedict, as well as pass.”
Considering Benedict’s winless record and respected coaching staff, Pittman expects a tough game as the Tigers will be hungry for a victory.
“We are motivated because, once again, we are aware of that coaching staff there and the players,” Pittman said. “I know they’re going to come with all their guns loaded and coming at us. I’m telling my team, ‘It’s going to be a hard-fought game, and we need to be prepared for it.’ ”