Quarterback Smith’s injury tough break for Hornets

DSU quarterback Shayne Smith rushes against Delaware in the second quarter. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — The revolving door of quarterbacks at Delaware State has kept doing just that.

Less than one half into its season opener, the Hornets were already forced into a change at quarterback.

Junior starter Shayne Smith broke his thumb in the first half of DSU’s 31-13 defeat at the University of Delaware on Thursday night. It meant true freshman Tylik Bethea is now the Hornets’ No. 1 QB.

Bethea, out of Abraham Lincoln High in Brooklyn N.Y., enrolled early at Delaware State and has been with the team since the start of spring semester.

“It’s just one of those things now and Shayne will probably be out a couple of weeks,” said DSU coach Rod Milstead. “Tylik is now our guy. I like his future. He came here in January and now he’s playing in a Division I football game against an instate rival, he’s somebody we can build a program around.”

Bethea threw his first collegiate touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass to Bizzet Woodley.

Bethea finished with 137 yards through the air on 10-of-18 attempts. His longest pass was for 36 yards.

The Hornets’ Richard Harris rushes against Delaware.

“I always take every snap, every rep like I’m preparing to be the starter,” Bethea said. “Anybody can get into the game. You always got to be ready so you always got to study film and make every rep count.”

Smith left the game after the Hornets went on top 6-3 thanks to a 30-yard field goal by Jose Romo-Martinez. It was the first lead for Delaware State in the all-time series between the two teams who have now met nine times.

Smith was nursing a sprained shoulder in the final week of training camp but was healthy enough to earn the starting nod for the season opener.

Bethea would have started if Smith’s shoulder was not healed in time, but was thrust into action anyway.

Smith ended his day with 94 yards passing. He was 4-of-12 on his attempts. Despite not recording a first down until the final drive of the first quarter, both of DelState’s scoring drives came when Smith was on the field.

The first was 11 plays for 68 yards and the second was 12 plays for 69 yards. Each drive ended with a field goal from Romo-Martinez.

Milstead said he was pleased with the signs of progress he saw from both quarterbacks. Between all five QBs on the roster, only Smith has started a game at the Division I level and it was just last year’s season finale.

“We saw some gems in our passing game tonight which is what I’m really proud of,” Milstead said.

Milstead was impressed by Bethea’s maturity in a difficult situation.

“He made some big throws,” Milstead said. “He’s more mature for his age. He’s built like a prototypical NFL quarterback. He’s 6-foot-5, can stand in the pocket and he has a rifle.”

Delaware scored 28 unanswered points after Smith’s injury until Bethea’s first touchdown with 3:20 left in the contest.

“I felt like we made a lot of mental mistakes,” Bethea said. “I think in the first 20 minutes we were good. But then the offense started slowing down, the defense started slowing down. We just got to keep doing what we did in the first half for the whole game and we’ll be good.”

“The season is still promising,” Milstead said. “We’ve got a lot of football left. This is one game. We’ll learn from it and we’ll be a better football team in two weeks.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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