Hornets aim to play better vs. UD than 2016 rout

NEWARK — Kenny Carter is the first to admit that Delaware State didn’t hold up its end of the bargain a year ago.

Of course, there were a lot of legitimate reasons why Delaware ran away to a 56-14 victory over the Hornets.

But with DelState getting ready to open the football season again in Newark on Thursday night, Carter thinks his squad is in better position to be competitive.

“We’re going to go into this game with more people on the roster that are legitimate ‘D1’ players than we’ve had in the time that we’ve been here,” said DSU’s third-year head coach. “There’s just a lot of change that needed to occur so we’re excited.”

Indeed, only three players who were on the roster when Carter was hired are still on the Hornet squad that will take the field against the Blue Hens on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Delaware Stadium.

Delaware State University football head coach Kenny Carter. (Delaware State News file photo)

DelState is 0-7 against Delaware since the state’s only two NCAA Division I FCS programs first met in 2007.

For Carter, one of the biggest things the Hornets need to do on Thursday is also the most basic — stop the run.

The Hens piled up 395 yards on the ground, including five rushing touchdowns, last year. Carter, though, points out that DSU will have three defensive line starters who didn’t play in last year’s Delaware game.

“We didn’t stop the run last year against Delaware,” he said. “And that’s one thing that you’ve definitely got to do.”

Offensively, the Hornets turned the ball over six times against the Hens last year, including five interceptions.

But DelState has a new quarterback in sophomore Keenan Black, who earned the opening-night start over freshman Jack McDaniels.

“We totally changed that situation,” said Carter, comparing it to last year’s opener. “We changed drastically the things that we’re doing on offense.”

The Hens return most of the starters from last season’s 4-7 team.

Hornet quarterback Keenan Black. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

On the other hand, running back Wes Hills — who was named the game MVP after running for 212 yards and a pair of TDs against the Hornets — has been declared academically ineligible. Delaware also has a new coaching staff led by head coach Danny Rocco.

Carter said he and his staff have studied tape of Richmond, where Rocco was the head coach for the past five years.

“Coach Rocco is going to do a great job with continuing to do the things that he did at Richmond,” said Carter. “I’m sure you adjust some things with personnel. But we’re basing everything that we’re doing gameplan-wise off of what they did at Richmond last year.”

For their part, the Hens say they aren’t looking past the Hornets. Delaware plays at Virginia Tech the following Saturday.

“I think last year was the beginning of a process of them building,” said Blue Hen linebacker Troy Reeder. “I think we have a lot of respect for them and their coaches.

“One of the things that stood out to me was, at the end of the game last year, it was not a close finish. But the way they finished the game gave me a lot of respect for them. They kept coming at us no matter what. … I know that they have a lot of really good athletes all over the field. If they’re able to put it together, they could be a really good team.

“We’re definitely not taking anything lightly,” he added. “We’re preparing for them the same way we’ll prepare for Virginia Tech next week.”

The fact is, DelState is still an extremely young team. But, Carter said, it also depends on how you look at it.

The Hornets are starting 16 sophomores on Thursday but only one freshman. To Carter, that’s progress.

“The fact that we had to play so many guys last year as freshmen was really a godsend because we gained tremendous experience,” said Carter.

“Going into this game last year, we had to play a bunch of freshmen that weren’t ready to play. Because of that, now we’re playing guys that have played in 10 to 11 games — and played a lot of football.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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