Hornets battle but fumbles, mistakes prove costly vs. Hens

NEWARK — There haven’t been many times in the history of the Route 1 Rivalry where Delaware State could claim it had a legitimate shot to knock off Delaware.

But here were the Hornets late in the third quarter down by less than a touchdown and driving into Blue Hen territory.

Their bid for their first ever win against Delaware fell short though, thanks to a couple a key fumbles and an inability to find the end zone. The Blue Hens ended up taking control for a 22-3 victory to improve to 8-0 all-time against DSU.

“We were pretty optimistic and thought we were right in it,” said DSU quarterback Jack McDaniels. “Unfortunately we just didn’t come out and make any big plays in the second half. Offensively we got to find a way to put the ball in the end zone.”

Junior running back Brycen Alleyne fumbled twice in Delaware territory in the third quarter. The first came with 4:10 left in the third with the Hornets down 8-3.

Jack McDaniels, #10 DSU, hands the ball off to Mike Waters, #25 DSU, as the University of Delaware hosts Delaware State University in the opening game of the season at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Delaware was able to turn that turnover into points with a 31-yard touchdown throw from Joe Walker to Diante Cherry. It put the Hornets behind 15-3 with 1:22 left in the quarter.

DelState’s next drive was halted until a fake punt gave the Hornets new life. Freshman Devin Adams took a direct snap as the up-back and found room for 15 yards to earn a first down at the Delaware 43-yard line.

Alleyne broke off his longest run of the night for 23 yards on the next play to reach the red zone but Delaware’s Justin Watson swatted the ball out of Alleyne’s hand at the end of the run. Delaware recovered and the Hornets never made it back into the red zone the rest of the night.

“He’s a great kid and a great back but we have to try to not let those kinds of things happen,” said DSU coach Kenny Carter. “You can’t turn the ball over no matter where you are and who you’re playing.”

There were a few other plays the Hornets thought could have swung the game in their favor.

They wished they could have converted twice from a yard out in the final minute of the first half before settling for a field goal. Then on the ensuing kickoff they almost recovered a sky-kick in Delaware territory which could have set them up for another field goal attempt but the ball rolled out of bounds right before DSU could grab it.

Still, the Hornets could find some solace in the fact they improved on last year’s 56-14 defeat to Delaware. This was the third-closest game in the history of the series behind a 27-17 Delaware win in 2009 and a 27-9 result in 2014.

“I know we battled back and we have a lot of guys that can make plays,” said McDaniels, who made his debut at QB as a true freshman. “I know we got a heck of a defense.”

The defensive improvement is what Carter was most pleased about, especially considering the Hornets only played one senior on defense the entire night.

“I was really proud of our defense and I thought they played really well,” Carter said. “There’s a such a big difference when you have depth and you can take those guys in and out. There were times we had three freshmen in the game at one time on the defensive line and they held their own. They actually had a three and out.”

DelState’s defense was able to hold the Hens to four field goal attempts in the first half as Delaware converted two of the four. Senior Malik Harris paced the Hornets with a game-high nine tackles and had DSU’s lone sack.

Juniors Keyjuan Selby and Garfield Heslop had eight tackles apiece for the Hornets.

”I’m proud of our defense I felt like we came out really strong in this game,” Selby said. “It’s like night and day from last year. We’re a whole new defense. We’ve been working all summer and preseason for this. This shows we can play with good teams like that.”

Selby also recorded a personal milestone, snaring his first career interception.

“Shoot, I get those all the time in practice and I finally got one in a game,” he said. “It shows the hard work is paying off for me.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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