DSU Football Notebook: Hornets look to tighten up young defense

Linebacker Malik Harris, shown making a tackle against Morgan State last year, is one of the few experienced players on defense. (File photo)

Linebacker Malik Harris, shown making a tackle against Morgan State last year, is one of the few experienced players on defense. (File photo)

DOVER — The Delaware State University football team knows it needs to get better at stopping the run in order to have a successful year.

A week after allowing 395 rushing yards to the University of Delaware, the Hornets will see another run-first team when they welcome Monmouth University to Alumni Stadium in the home opener on Saturday (5 p.m.).

“If we can’t stop the run, we can’t be a good defense,” said junior linebacker Malik Harris. “That’s our main priority. To be a great defense, you’ve got to stop the run.”

Monmouth features (1-0) a strong running back in senior Lavon Chaney. Chaney rushed for 119 yards in Monmouth’s 23-21 win last Saturday over Lehigh.

As a team, Monmouth recorded 215 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Second-year coach Kenny Carter knows the Hornets (0-1) will have to do a better job of tackling than what they did last Thursday in a 56-14 defeat at UD.

“They got a good back and we’ve got to tackle him,” Carter said. “Really last time out it came down to missed tackles. It’s not a scheme issue. We had about 17 missed tackles. When you have more than 10 missed tackles in a game, you’re probably going to lose that game.”

There is some past history of Monmouth dominating the Hornets with an unstoppable rushing attack.

Monmouth defeated DelState 52-21 in the season opener in 2014. The Hawks rushed for 316 yards that day against a DSU defense that had future NFL draft pick Rodney Gunter and future Michigan State transfer Gabe Sherrod on the defensive line.

Harris was a true freshman on the field that day. This year, Harris is one of the few experienced players on the DSU defense. The Hornets put out a defensive line at times last Thursday that was made up of entirely freshmen.

“We’ve got some game minutes under our belt and we’ve got to build on that,” Harris said. “I understand, the first game there’s a lot going on and it’s a lot to take in. But now they’ve been exposed to it. The young guys and older guys need to come out now with some physicality.”

Carter said this baptism by fire for the young defense is just part of the process.

“I have to grab myself and remind myself how young we are,” Carter said. “The reality of the situation is, when you’re extremely young as we are, there are growing pains. A majority of these guys were in high school this time last year.”

QB situation the same

Kobie Lain, who left the game against Delaware and did not return, was back practicing on Tuesday with the Hornets.

He will be available to see time at quarterback against Monmouth. The Hornets are still planning on rotating quarterbacks with Lain and junior college transfer Dan Epperson.

Epperson started on Thursday before Lain played a series in the second quarter. Lain was injured and required stitches to his forehead, leaving Epperson to play the rest of the way.

But Lain’s absence didn’t affect the DSU offensive strategy.

“We do the same thing with both of them,” Carter said. “(Offensive coordinator) John (Allen) doesn’t have to change his play-calling at all.”

Epperson finished with a pair of touchdowns but threw four interceptions against Delaware. Lain was 2-for-2 in his passing attempts.

Extra points

Delaware State hasn’t won a home opener since the 2012 season. The Hornets did win their last game at home in the season finale against Howard a year ago. To date, that’s the only win of Carter’s coaching career. “I hope it will be great and the fans will be loud,” said Carter about the home opener. “We’re definitely on a roll at home compared to the last game.” … Wide receiver Mason Rutherford should be ready to play on Saturday. Rutherford left the Delaware contest after a hard hit on a punt return. Rutherford had the Hornets’ first touchdown catch and was the leading receiver with six receptions for 83 yards. … Caesar Rodney High product Brian Lewis is a freshman defensive back on the Monmouth roster.

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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