Hornets end 17-game losing streak in 17-14 win over South Carolina State

The Delaware State football team celebrates ending a 17-game losing streak on Saturday. (Courtesy of Delaware State Athletics/Rodney Adams )

DOVER — Devin Adams was on the ground, under a pile of delirious Delaware State teammates and was still trying to process what just occurred.

The freshman linebacker delivered something the Hornets had not seen in two years.

Delaware State is a winner once again in football.

Adams’ interception with a minute left sealed a 17-14 victory for the Hornets over South Carolina State on Saturday afternoon in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest. The Hornets snapped a 17-game losing streak — what was the longest current streak in all of college football.

It is the first win for Delaware State (1-4 MEAC, 1-6 overall) since a 32-31 triumph over Howard on Nov. 21, 2015.

Senior kicker Wisdom Nzidee gave the Hornets the lead with a 29-yard field goal with 10:11 left in the fourth quarter. The Hornets defense was called upon three times in the final 10 minutes, and kept South Carolina State (1-4 MEAC, 2-5 overall) from scoring each time.

The final drive ended after the Bulldogs had just converted on third and long. On the ensuing first down play, Adams snared an underthrown ball over the middle of the field and sprinted deep into Bulldog territory.

“I was like, ‘There’s no way this is happening,’” Adams said. “This ball is really coming toward me right now? If I catch it, the game is pretty much over. When it touched my hands and I started running, I just blacked out. It doesn’t feel real. When they blew that final whistle, it’s like a weight off your shoulders. Two years for this program, it’s a long time coming.”

Adams was greeted on the Hornet sideline by an avalanche of excited teammates who threw him into a dogpile. One kneeldown later the Hornets were storming the field in a raucous celebration with some climbing into the stands to hug excited students as the DSU fight song blared throughout the student section.

For a team who has been decimated by injuries, it was fitting a freshman like Adams made the biggest play of the game. The Hornets’ starting lineup is 85 percent underclassmen and entered the game without three Preseason All-MEAC selections in the lineup due to injuries.

“It was appropriate that it happened that way because Devin from day one has been a really positive and enthusiastic guy,” said DSU coach Kenny Carter. “For him to get the interception to seal it, that’s awesome. I’m so excited for him and for our defense.”

The Hornets led 14-0 on a pair of touchdown passes by sophomore quarterback Keenan Black. But South Carolina State responded with a Trey Samuel 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and tied on a Quan Caldwell touchdown reception from Dewann Ford on the first drive of the fourth quarter.

Black quickly engineered a scoring drive on his own after the Bulldogs evened things up. Aided by an illegal hands to the face penalty on a third down, Black connected with Nyfease West for an 18-yard pass and followed that with a 17-yard throw to Jordan Hannah to bring the Hornets into field goal range.

And the Hornets had the guy they wanted out there taking the field goal in Nzidee, the Nigerian-born kicked who transferred to Delaware State after his previous school Division II Paine College discontinued its football program after the 2014 season.

Nzidee entered the game a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts and 5-for-5 on extra points. He made no mistakes on this one either, booting his effort straight through the uprights.

“Every Thursday we go through something like that at practice,” Nzidee said. “I’ve been waiting for that opportunity. I wasn’t nervous. I knew it was just another kick and I wanted to put it through to give my team a win. It’s very emotional right now. This is something I’ve always hoped for.”

The Hornets did not allow South Carolina State to cross midfield on its final three possessions. Devin Smith made a juggling interception to halt the first drive after Nzidee’s field goal.

Delaware State forced a three and out on the Bulldogs’ next possession thanks in large part to a sack by Dominique Drewery. Brian Cavicante had a sack on the final drive before Adams’ interception.

“We had to trust the process,” Cavicante, a sophomore, said. “We gave up a couple games this year, we should have had a win by now. But we knew the defense had to close this game out. We didn’t want to be the ones to give this game up. I feel like a monkey jumped off my back. I wanted to come here to help turn this program around. Winning this one, I feel like we’re just getting started.”

“The biggest thing we did is we stressed positivity,” Adams said. “Positivity can override anything. What set us apart in this game was focusing in a positive way. We believed something good was going to happen.”

Black was making his first start of the season at quarterback. He finished with 218 yards on 14-of-27 attempts.

Black threw his first touchdown to Taronn Selby for 36 yards on the game’s first drive. It was the first career touchdown catch for Selby. Black then hooked up with Fatu Sua-Godinet for another touchdown in the first quarter, this time from nine yards out.

“This shows us that we can do it,” Black said. “We want it in our heart. Everybody has come together as one and we all want to win. It starts at practice where we had a great practice on Tuesday. It has been building up this whole week at practice.”

“To say a weight is off our shoulders is an understatement,” Carter said.

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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