Hornets hampered by slow starts

DOVER — The first halves need to be better for the Delaware State football team, says coach Rod Milstead.

Rod Milstead

The Hornets have struggled at the start of games recently and it has led to a three-game losing streak, all against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents.

Delaware State has a chance to right the ship this Saturday. The Hornets (0-3 MEAC, 1-4 overall) travel to Morgan State for a 1 p.m. MEAC clash.

The Hornets lost 38-24 last Saturday to South Carolina State after only scoring three points in the first half. This came after DSU was shut out on the road at North Carolina A&T a week prior.

“We’re making positive steps in the right direction, we just have to find a way to get it started earlier,” Milstead said. “We did the same thing against A&T and we did the same thing (against South Carolina State) where we started slow. We were able to come back against South Carolina State we just didn’t have enough time. We got to find a way to play like we’ve been playing in the second half when the ball is kicked off and the game is started.”

Delaware State has only scored one first half touchdown in its three MEAC games. The Hornets have a combined 12 first half points in those three contests.

Milstead said the Hornets will do some things differently in practice this week to try to have a quicker start against Morgan State.

“We’re adjusting some of the things we do in practice to try to give us a spark to get us ignited earlier,” Milstead said. “Just with how we practice and some different competitive things we’ll do this week to try to get it started earlier. Our guys have seen the film, they understand how many missed opportunities we had to win the football game.”

Milstead credited better communication and play-calling for DelState’s stronger second half against South Carolina State.

“We had to slow it down a little bit,” “Milstead said. “Sometimes our guys get overly excited out there and we get away from things that we do well. We decided as coaches to slow it down and allow them to have some input in the way we were doing our play-calling on both sides of the football. We started communicating better on the sidelines better, getting input from our players on what they see and what can work.”

Bethea still the man

Milstead also gave freshman quarterback Tylik Bethea a vote of confidence on Tuesday.

Tylik Bethea

Bethea has started the last four games after coming off the bench in the season opener.

Shayne Smith has returned to practice after suffering a broken thumb, leading to Bethea replacing him. But Milstead is committed to Bethea’s development.

“We have a quarterback that we feel like we can build our program around,” Milstead said when asked for positives about this season. “Last year we were flipping and flopping two quarterbacks and ended up going with a third at the end. We feel like Tylik Bethea give us the best chance to be successful offensively.”

Bethea has thrown for five touchdowns this year. He has completed 63-of-136 attempts (46.3 percent) for 708 yards with three interceptions.

Not taking Morgan lightly

Milstead cautioned about reading too much into Morgan State’s record this season.

The Bears are winless with an 0-2 mark in MEAC play and 0-5 overall.

But Milstead said he has noticed Morgan State’s improvement on film and the Bears are close to earning their first win.

“They’re going to get somebody this year,” Milstead said. “I just don’t want it to be us.”

Morgan State is coming off a 31-20 loss to Bethune-Cookman. The Bears also dropped a MEAC game 27-17 to North Carolina Central.

“Don’t look at their record,” Milstead said. “They’re playing hard. They were in the game with Bethune last week and as a matter of fact they tried to make a comeback at the end and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. … They’re moving the ball and they’re getting better every week.”

Saturday’s matchup will also be Homecoming at Morgan State.

“It’s going to be a very hostile environment,” Milstead said. “We understand that. We need to come out and have our A-game. We really need a victory this week.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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