Defense shines as Hornets rip Savannah 25-6 for 2nd straight win

Devin Smith

DOVER — It technically was not a shutout.

But it certainly felt like one.

Delaware State’s defense did not allow any points as the Hornets won 25-6 over Savannah State in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest at home on Saturday. It is the second win in a row for the Hornets who moved to 2-7 overall (2-4 MEAC).

Savannah State’s only points came on an interception returned for a touchdown.

It was the first time since 2007 against North Carolina A&T the DelState defense allowed zero points. The Hornets held Savannah State to only 167 offensive yards — DSU’s best mark since 2010 in a game against North Carolina Central.

“We’ve gelled together,” said senior defensive lineman Jason Smith. “All our guys are locked in. We all have the same goal and the same mindset. We’re playing for each other not for ourselves. We’re a family. I love our program. We’ve been the underdogs and we’re starting to show what we’re all about.”

The victory also gave DelState back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2013 season.

“It feels great honestly,” said junior offensive lineman Kaiden Crawford. “Since I came in as a freshman in 2016 we’ve been losing and losing. It’s a great feeling now. The o-line is blocking hard and being more physical. The defense basically had a shutout. We’re coming together as a team.”

The Hornet defense rewrote the book as far as its personal best stats on the season.

DelState set new marks for fewest first downs allowed with eight, fewest yards per play allowed with three along with fewest rushing (112), passing (55) and total yardage against (167). The Hornets also scored on defense via a safety.

This all came from a defense who at the beginning of October was allowing the third most yards per game of any team in FCS.

“Obviously you’re going to have bumps and bruises in the beginning,” said sophomore defensive back Jahad Neibauer. “Those first couple of weeks weren’t in our favor just because we didn’t understand the scheme yet. As soon as we got guys in the right spots things have started to turn around and you can see it on the field.”

Devin Smith led the Hornet defense with nine tackles. Neibauer and Smith each had five tackles while Neibauer recorded an interception and a sack. Milford High grad David Bowman added a forced fumble for the defense.

Jose Romo-Martinez kicked three field goals, Trey Gross caught a touchdown and Brycen Alleyne ran for a score to pace the offense.

“I told the guys the standard had been set after last week and everyone is going to want to see if it was a fluke or if it’s the new DelState Hornets,” said first-year coach Rod Milstead. “I think we backed it up and started where we left off last week. I think we raised the bar again.”

The Hornets led wire-to-wire after a 28-yard field goal by Romo-Martinez in the first quarter.

With a ferocious wind howling most of the game, the Hornets didn’t throw it much. But Jack McDaniels made the most of one of his 14 attempts.

As he avoided a Tiger blitz, he saw Gross on the left sideline and pointed toward the end zone. Gross ran toward the spot and out-jumped his defender to snare McDaniels’ lob out of the air for a 10-3 lead with 5:43 to go in the second quarter.

“I felt the rush a little and knew I had to get out,” McDaniels said. “Everyone did well up front so I threw it up and Trey made a play. He’s amazing and is probably the best jumpball receiver in the conference.”

Bryant Dallas led the Hornets in rushing yards for the first time with a career-high 84 yards. Michel Chris-Ike followed with 56 yards and McDaniels added 49 yards on the ground.

For a team with only 11 seniors on the roster, the last two weeks have been something special.

“We’re building,” Milstead said. “It’s no secret we’re building for next year and we want to get some momentum going. I think we’re starting to play as a team, as a family and playing for the guy beside you.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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