Road-weary Hornets eye more home games in 2019 and beyond

Rod Milstead

DOVER — Finally, the Delaware State University football team doesn’t have to travel this week.

But the Hornets are still a little ways away from playing a home game.

Delaware State enters a bye week 0-3 with all of its losses coming on the road. The Hornets have played two FBS teams, Buffalo and Western Michigan, and one team from the FCS in St. Francis (Pa.).

It’ll be right back on the road this following week as the Hornets open MEAC play at Norfolk State on Sept. 29. Their home opener isn’t until Oct. 6.

Delaware State has only four home games on its schedule this season.

This is also the second-straight season Delaware State played two games against FBS opponents. The Hornets traveled to West Virginia and Florida State in 2017.

But with Rod Milstead in his first season as head coach and a new athletic administration in place this year, look for the scheduling to change in the future.

“I prefer to get more home games,” Milstead said. “Being away seven of the 11 weeks is tough. I’d rather play seven home games and four on the road. Going forward, in the Rod Milstead era, we’re going to be playing more home games and maybe try to have our competition be more what we are.”

Milstead said next season’s schedule is nearly complete and he expects there to be six home games for the Hornets. New athletic director Scott Gines has also stated he is in favor of seeing the team play on campus more often than not.

“That’s how you build your fan-base up,” Milstead said. “Look at Alabama, they got a lot of home games. There’s a reason why. I’d like to take a page out of that book.”

Delaware State is coming off a 68-0 loss at Western Michigan last weekend.

That’s about how things have gone for the Hornets against FBS foes in recent years.

They fell to Florida State 77-6 in the 2017 season finale, which turned out to be Kenny Carter’s last game as head coach. They lost to Missouri 79-0 the year prior in a game where the two teams elected to take 10 minutes off the clock in the second half.

The other side of these FBS games, though, is money.

Delaware State was paid a combined $975,000 for the Florida State and West Virginia contests last year. In 2009, the Hornets forfeited a MEAC game against North Carolina A&T to play at Michigan and collect $500,000. DelState lost to Michigan 63-6.

While Milstead isn’t against the idea of facing FBS schools, he would like to play teams closer in competition level to what the Hornets are instead of being routed just for a payday.

“We’re not going to play a Florida State in the next five years, I’ll promise you that one,” Milstead said. “That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to do those things. We’re going to play teams of a higher competitive nature but we want to have a chance to win those games. It’s not about the money for me. It’s about building confidence and building a program.

“I’m not a big fan of playing a FBS school so early in my coaching career,” Milstead added. “I would have liked to do it down the road when our program is a little more established. But it’s given our young guys a great opportunity to see where they are. Every kid who plays college football has the dream of going pro one day. It’s an opportunity for you to showcase your talents against guys who are presumed to be better than you.”

With Milstead being hired so late (Feb. 1), he wasn’t able to have much input on this year’s schedule.

But he’s known far in advance the Hornets were going to be road warriors this season. He said his staff has been preparing the players for the many road trips since the spring game.

“It’s the hand that we were dealt,” Milstead said. “The schedules are done three or four years out, so we knew what this was going to be on Feb. 1 when I got hired. We know we’re going on the road and the games are going to be played. Regardless if we’re home or away, it’s the same preparation.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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