Hornet notebook: Winless DSU set for MEAC opener Saturday at Norfolk

DOVER — Four years ago the Delaware State football team went down to Norfolk State and emerged with an overtime victory.

The Hornets were euphoric. The win was sealed after a dramatic interception by Davon Moore in the end zone and a game-winning field goal by Mitchell Ward.

It brought the Hornets’ MEAC record to 2-1 and they were still very much in the race for the conference championship.

But five straight losses followed and the Hornet football program has never been the same.

The Hornets also have not won a road game since that day, Oct. 14, 2014.

They return to Norfolk State this week looking to right the ship. Delaware State is coming off a bye week at 0-3 overall and will begin MEAC play Saturday with a 4 p.m. kickoff at the Spartans.

Since that last road win, the Hornets have had as many football coaches as they have had wins, period. Kermit Blount was dismissed after the 2014 season. His replacement, Kenny Carter, went 3-30 over three years before his contract was not renewed.

First-year coach Rod Milstead is winless in his first three attempts this year, though two of those games were against FBS opponents. The Hornets’ latest loss was to Western Michigan two Saturdays ago.

With the nonconference portion of the schedule complete, Milstead is glad the Hornets can focus on their MEAC competition.

“As I told the players, unfortunately we’re 0-3 but the preseason is over,” Milstead said. “The task has always been and will remain, to get into conference play and be successful.”

Delaware State has lost 24 consecutive road games since that victory at Norfolk State in 2014.

Three of the last four losses have come against FBS opponents. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, to allow the Hornets to recover from a 68-0 defeat at Western Michigan.

With the schedules done years in advance, Milstead was dealt a bad hand with two of his first three games coming against FBS teams. But he hopes his players have learned enough from those contests to help them in MEAC play.

“We had to play them, they were on the schedule, so we knew they were coming and we gave it our best shot,” Milstead said. “Now we can regroup, go back and watch the film to see our mistakes then move forward. Our goal has always been since day one to be a MEAC champion.”

Nothing major changing

Despite the rough start, Milstead said he and his staff are going to avoid making sweeping changes.

Instead, they’re focused on eliminating mistakes and working to prevent communication breakdowns on the field.

“I’ve never believed in changing my horse in the middle of a race,” Milstead said. “We’re going to do what we do here at DelState and we’re going to perfect what we do. It’s not going to change. The offense we run is going to be the offense we run, defense same way and special teams same way. We’re just going to correct the mistakes.”

The Hornets were out-gained 527-123 in total offensive yards by the Broncos. Delaware State only recorded eight yards passing, five first downs and turned the ball over twice.

“We just didn’t play well,” Milstead said. “I’ll make no excuses. We didn’t play well and when you play against a FBS opponent that is well-equipped like Western Michigan you can’t make any mistakes.”

“I wanted to see how we compete and I’ve said that over and over again,” Milstead added. “One thing about this team is they have no quit in them. Regardless of the score, they’re stilling going 100 miles an hour and doing everything they can to be successful.”

Smith coming into his own

One positive from Delaware State’s game at Western Michigan was the play of junior defensive back Devin Smith.

Smith tied his career-high with 11 tackles, including nine solo stops. He recorded four tackles for a loss and forced a fumble.

Smith has been a cornerback for most of his career, but due to injuries to other members of the secondary, Smith has moved to safety.

“He played his best game as a Hornet,” Milstead said. “We were pleasantly surprised. I told him, he set the bar high now. Every week we expect him to play to that level.”

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