Perhaps in preparation for Thanksgiving a week from today, several teams from the SEC will be helping themselves to a buffet of FCS teams this weekend. The list of opponents includes Western Carolina (Alabama), Jacksonville State (Florida), Wofford (South Carolina), Georgia Southern (Georgia), Alabama A&M (Auburn), Sam Houston State (Texas A&M) and Samford (Kentucky).
Mercifully absent from that list of opponents in Savannah State, who we wrote about two months ago following an 84–0 loss to Oklahoma State and just before a slightly better 55–0 loss to Florida State. Giving the Tigers the benefit of the doubt, we wondered if those early-season lumps would pay dividends later in the season.
The answer: Not by a long shot.
Heading into its season finale against South Carolina State on Saturday, Savannah State sits at 1–9 on the season, including an 0–7 mark in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play. They are the only team in the league without at least two conference wins and have dropped 14 straight to MEAC opponents. The Tigers’ lone win of the season was a 42–35 nail-biter over Edward Waters College, an NAIA school, on Oct 20.
It takes a “special” team to be the fourth-worst scoring offense (13.4 points/game) and second-worst scoring defense (46.7 points/game) in the FCS out of 121 teams. And it’s not as if the Tigers’ first two games wildly skewed their averages. Since then they’ve scored under 17 points/game while allowing 41 points per contest.
Those season-opening blowouts proved to be a harbinger. Savannah State has lost subsequent games by scores of 56–9, 45–6, 44–3 and 49–7.
It’s not just the games that have proved rocky for the program. Coach Steve Davenport suspended eight of his players for the Edward Waters game. Not for illicit benefits, an off-campus fight or any of the reasons normally behind such wholesale suspensions. It was for minor matters “ranging from missing classes to missing study hall to being late for working out.”
In other words, maturity issues. Not surprising for a roster that fields only four seniors. It’s that collective youth that gives Davenport his biggest source of hope.
“We made progress,” he said during a Tuesday MEAC coaches’ teleconference. “It’s difficult to see that in terms of the scores, but we’ve made tremendous progress here and I think our program is heading in the right direction.”
We believe in the earnestness of Davenport and his players’ effort. We see the possibility that all those freshmen and sophomores will be leagues better as juniors and seniors. But Savannah State is 20-117 since joining the FCS in 2000 from Division II and still has a long way to go before it can stop being feasted on by everyone.