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Delaware State Stings SC State, 10-9;
Tied for first in MEAC
Dover, DE - After the game in Newark, we ventured about 30 miles due south the see Delaware's other D1AA team, the Delaware State Hornets. The Hornets battled Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe, South Carolina State, on a cold blustery, wind-swept night at Alumni Stadium for a game in which the victor would maintain a tie with perennial front-runner, Hampton University. Battling the wind as well as each other, the home team triumphed,10-9, to land in a tie with Hampton with an identical 5-1 MEAC record. The SC State Bulldogs had made this possible with a win over the Pirates the week before. DSU fell to Hampton earlier in the season, 29-14. We regret that we left our notepad back in the car to take notes for this one, but the cold wind would have made it difficult on bare hands to maintain a drive chart any way.
On their first possession, the Hornets drove downfield to the SC State 20 where QB Vashon Winton (12 for 22, 139 yards, 1 TD) rifled a pass into the wind to WR Shaheer McBride for a 20-yard TD pass. Jon Brite's PAT added to make the score, 7-0. The Bulldogs responded on its next possession with the aid of several penalties including a roughing the punter call which gave the Dogs new life. From the 19, PK Mike Gaston connected with a 36-yard boot, to make the score, 7-3, in favor of the Hornets. Still in Q1, SC took over near mid-field the next time they had the ball. With wind behind them, QB Cleveland McCoy took advantage and hooked up with TE Spencer Miller near the left sideline for a 28-yard catch and run for a TD. Early in the game, the Dogs extra point failed, but they took the lead now, 9-7. The Bulldogs held that lead through through the first half as both teams stayed primarily on the ground as the wind whipped and gusted all over the field throughout the contest. Numerous penalties were called throughout the game. Some tremendous hitting went on, mostly from DSU LB Russell Reeves. SC State maintained their lead going into the warmer locker-rooms at the half. We wanted to do the same, but we were looking forward to what was "approaching."
DSU's marching band, The Approaching Storm (why not "Swarm", as in Hornets) put on the halftime show, playing, marching and dancing to the tunes of several contemporary entertainers. We'd seen Jessica Simpson at a Temple halftime show several years ago, but we never heard a marching band do a number from Christine Aguilera, until now. That was a first. DSU alum who went on to play in the NFL include John Taylor, the former WR of SF 49er Super Bowl fame, and Clarence Weathers whom we remember with the Patriots and Browns. Head Coach Al Lavan, in his third season at DSU, has quite a resume himself with 18 years as an assistant with several teams in the NFL, including the 1990 Super Bowl 49ers. In 2003, he took over a 1-8 Eastern Michigan after the release of HC Jeff Woodruff, and led the Eagles to two victories in their last three games. We had seen EMU the previous year while he was assistant in a 45-3 loss to Maryland. But, in only his second year at DSU, he led the team to a 7-4 record, the first winning season since 2000. At 6-2 now with three games remaining, he not only has the Hornets on a winning track again, but he has them eying a possible play-off berth in this year's tourney.
The teams battled to a standstill in the third period. QB Winton impressed us though with strong passes into the wind. We wondered why he didn't throw more often as the wind didn't seem to affect his rifle-armed passes. Going into the final period, the score remained, 9-7.
In Q4, DSU started rolling sparked by a reverse on third and eight where McBride got the Hornets a big first down. Another reverse to him got them beyond midfield and into FG territory. From 30 yards away, Brite put up three to take a 10-9 lead with 10:49 remaining. The Bulldogs made it down to the Hornet 34, but they failed to convert on fourth and two giving the ball back to the Hornets. Their next possession started from the eight, but again, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs before DSU ran out the clock. Time expired, and Al Lavan took a Gatorade bath on a cold, windy night. The crowd of 2,615 exploded and celebrated as their Hornets had a piece of the MEAC championship in their sites. DSU hosts non-conference Concord next week before visiting MEAC teams Norfolk State and Howard, both currently with one win each in the conference. SC State next hosts Howard and two other MEAC squads to end the season. DSU's hopes may rest on Bethune-Cookman to defeat the Pirates next week for sole possession of the MEAC and a shot at the Play-offs.
Extra Points : This is the first year that the Hornet's field has lights. It opens up other future opportunities to make up day-night DHs in the Delmarva area. Alumni Stadium also has new Pro-turf. The lights sent a glare off it that almost makes the field look as if there's a sheet of ice on it, especially when you sit in the cold weather. We have one suggested improvement - do something about the computer system printing out tickets. Tickets aren't printed until you order at the sales window. It takes too long! We got into the game three minutes after it started while waiting in line for over twenty minutes. Printing was slow.
DSU has a nice tailgating area along the brick wall along side Hwy 301. There we met a nice group of guys who invited us to eat with them at their tailgate party. Brian and his friends filled us in on some of the local high school action in the are as well as the history of the Hornets and DSU. We really appreciated their hospitality. They gave us plates for chicken and salads which we enjoyed, along with a little Cognac to warm us up a little bit, but the wind was so strong that night, not only did you have to hold your food on the plate so that it didn't blow away, the wind actually bent and cracked the styrofoam plates as you held them. It was an easy drive from Newark to Dover. We'll have to do it again some time. We hope to see them vie for more MEAC titles in the future.
Like Penn State and Pitt, we think Delaware and DSU should set up a rivalry. The West Chester - UD series is outdated by division affiliations now. UD dominates like ND dominates Navy in what was once probaly a competitve game between tow rivals not too far from each other. These two Delaware schools would be a natural at D1AA. The only problem we see is the size of Alumni Stadium. At first glance also, we thought the DSU players were much smaller than UD, but it must have been the closer proximity of the UD seating that made the players' sizes seem that way. Down at field level after the game, we noted that sizes of both teams were similar. They should schedule one another now rather than wit for a play-ff game, which would be exciting as well.