DSU notebook: Hornets stay determined after tough loss

DOVER — Rod Milstead was crushed.

But his players were there to pick him up.

The Hornets suffered a heartbreaking defeat over the weekend at North Carolina Central. They worked their way back to tie the game in the final minute just to turn around and give up a kick return touchdown to fall 30-23.

It stretched Delaware State’s losing streak to six games and its overall record to 1-7 (0-5 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play).
The way the Hornets handled the heartbreak helped Milstead get over the tough loss.

“I was very emotional, I was very upset,” Milstead said. “We worked so hard to get to that point and five seconds, 10 seconds later we’re down seven points again. But a lot of the players came up and said, ‘Coach, we got this.’ I was very proud of how positive the players were that we were going to get it done.”

“Unfortunately at the end of the game you saw a lot of tears,” Milstead added. “But I recognized my guys left everything out on the field. It just wasn’t our day that day.”

In the days after the defeat, Milstead allowed himself to focus on the positives.

First and foremost was how the Hornets were able to rally from a double-digit second-half deficit. The Hornets scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie the game 23-23 before the fateful kickoff return with 38 seconds left.

Kicker Jose Romo-Martinez tied his career-high with three field goals. Freshman receiver Bizzett Woodley was on the other end of two touchdown catches from freshman quarterback Tylik Bethea, including the tying one with 50 seconds to go on fourth down.

“That’s been the Delaware State way this year,” Milstead said. “We play to the end, regardless of the score. We just have to find a way to get over the hump and win a ballgame.”

Milstead said the game displayed signs of progress, despite what the Hornets’ record is.

“I learned a lot about our program,” Milstead said. “About a month ago, if that would have happened, there would have been a whole lot of negativity on the sideline. I was very, very proud of our guys.”

Road woes

The loss also meant the extension of another losing streak.

Delaware State has not won a game on the road since an overtime victory at Norfolk State on Oct. 11, 2014 — a streak of 32 games.
The last time the Hornets won a road contest in regulation was Nov. 16, 2013. That came against Florida A&M.

Delaware State visits Florida A&M again this weekend with a 4 p.m. kickoff. This is a far different version of the Rattlers, however.
Florida A&M has won seven games in a row for a 7-1 record and sits in first place in the MEAC at 5-0. The Rattlers are ranked No. 17 in the FCS top-25, the first time they’ve been ranked since 2009.

“You get a chance to see where your team is when you play a good team,” Milstead said of the matchup. “We’ve made some adjustments and we’re looking forward to see where those adjustments are going to take us.”

“They’re firing on all cylinders,” Milstead added. “Offensively, they’re a machine. They have a quarterback (Ryan Stanley) who has been in the system for a few years and they understand what’s expected. He’s probably the best quarterback I’ve seen on film this year.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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