Hornets fall to MEAC co-leader NC Central 38-19

DOVER — North Carolina Central scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special  teams in a 38-19 victory over Delaware State at Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Eagles, co-leaders with North Carolina A&T in the MEAC standings (6-0), won their seventh straight game to improve to 7-2 overall. The Hornets are winless in nine games, including six league contests.

Quarterback Malcolm Bell completed 17-of-31 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, while Ramone Simpson rushed for 112 yards and a score to lead the NCCU attack.

Aris Scott (sr.) had five receptions for a season-best 128 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow wide receiver Mason Rutherford (jr.) hauled in eight passes for 111 yards to lead the Hornets.

Photos Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

North Carolina Central totaled 469 yards, including 236 rushing.

The Hornets racked up 432 yards, highlighted by a season-best 319 passing. The passing yardage is DSU’s  most since throwing for 379 in the 2013 finale against Morgan State.

Delaware State linebacker Brian Cavicante (fr.) led all players with 13 tackles (10 solo) to tie his career-best.

North Carolina Central opened the scoring with a touchdown on the first possession of the game. The Eagles capped off the nine-play, 72-yard drive with a  seven-yard touchdown pass from Bell to LaVontis Smith. Delaware State blocked the extra point kick to hold NCCU’s lead to 6-0.

The Eagles drove to the DSU 10 on their third possession of the game, but had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Brandon McLaren to open up a 9-0 lead with 2:05 left in the first quarter.

Delaware State got on the board with an early second quarter touchdown.

Senior quarterback Gilbert Rivera, starting his first game of the season, connected with Scott on a 20-yard touchdown pass to cap off the seven-play, 75-yard drive.  Rivera completed each of his four pass attempts, including a 26-yard strike to Rutherford, during the two-minute-43 second march. The extra point kick by Wisdom Nzidee cut NC Central’s lead to 9-7 with `14:28 left in the second quarter.

The Eagles answered with a touchdown of their own on the ensuing possession. Sampson did the honors with a 24-yard scoring run. McLaren’s extra point gave the visitors a 16-7 lead with 11:59 left in the second quarter.

NC Central scored two touchdowns in the final 4:37 of the second quarter to take control of the game.

Less than three-and-a half  minutes after Bell and Smith hooked up for their second touchdown pass of the game (30 yards), NCCU linebacker Reggie Hunter returned a Rivera interception 19 yards for a touchdown to stretch the Eagle’s lead to 31-7 just before halftime.

After Delaware State failed to get a first down on the opening possession of the third quarter, NC Central linebacker Mike Jones returned a punt by Fidel Romo-Martinez 90 yards to the endzone to cap off a run of 29 straight points by the Eagles.  NCCU led 38-7 after the extra point by McLaren with 14:18 left in the third quarter.

Delaware State closed out the scoring with two late touchdowns.

The first touchdown was a 78-yard pass and run from Daniel Epperson to Scott with 4:09 left in the game. The reception was the longest at DSU for Scott, who ran for nearly 60 yards of the play.

It was also DSU’s longest pass play since quarterback Nick Elko and Travis Tarpley connected on an 83-yard strike at Hampton in 2012.

The Hornets scored the last touchdown of the game on a three-yard pop pass from running back Brycen Alleyne to tight end Isaiah Williams with 21 seconds left to play.

Rivera completed 13-of-21 passes for 180 yards, while Epperson had eight completions on 14 throws for 136 yards in relief.

The Hornets will play their 2016 home finale against the other MEAC leader, North Carolina A&T, next Saturday (Nov. 12) at 2 p.m.

Stingers

The performances by Aris Scott and Mason Rutherford mark the first time that two Delaware State receivers surpassed 100 yards in a game since Tarpley (143) and Justin Wilson (110) vs. Morgan State in 2012 … Scott now has 106 receptions for 1,398 yards in his career … Rutherford’s eight catches were the most by a Hornet this season … sophomore linebacker Denzel Burgette recorded Delaware State’s first interception of the season when he picked off a pass by Bell with 8:45 left in the third quarter, snapping a string of 301 opponent throws since DSU’s last INT by William Burton vs. NC Central on Nov. 7, 2015 … freshman Mike Waters led DSU with 64 yards on 16 rushing attempts in the game.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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