Punting game costs winless Hornets in 34-7 loss to S.C. State

 

DOVER — Delaware State’s Homecoming game turned out to be a flashback to the 2014 season.

The poor punting game that cost the Hornets several games last year reared its ugly head again on Saturday.

South Carolina State blocked two punts and returned a fumbled punt for a touchdown on its way to a 34-7 victory over the Hornets. Delaware State remained winless and fell to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the MidEastern Athletic Conference under first-year coach Kenny Carter.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the punting game,” Carter said. “You can’t have situations where you do what we did as far as punting the football.
It was a protection breakdown, it was an operational breakdown. I have to find out what’s going on with my punter because this is inexcusable.”

The punting issues plagued the Hornets from the first drive.

After a three-and-out, Jeremiah McGeough dropped the snap on his first punt attempt of the game. Tevin Richard recovered for the Bulldogs and was able to run 10 more yards into the end zone untouched for a South Carolina State lead just 1:35 into the contest.

Another three-and-out followed for the Hornets and this time the punt was partially blocked by Richard and landed at the DSU 41. That turned into another SC State touchdown, this time a Dondre Brown 2-yard rush.

The Bulldogs blocked their second punt of the game in the fourth quarter and scored on a 12-yard run by Jalen Simmons on the very next play.

“They played with a short field too many times,” Carter said.

McGeough had entered the game ranked third in the MEAC with a 40.3 yard punting average, seemingly recovered from a 2014 season where the Hornets gave up seven special teams touchdowns. Carter eventually put kicker Wisdom Nzidee in at punter before the game ended.

The punting wasn’t the only thing that put the Hornets behind.

Quarterback Gilbert Rivera fumbled on his own 24-yard line which turned into a Bulldog touchdown a few plays later. Rivera was making his second consecutive start in place of Esayah Obado who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

Rivera did throw for a touchdown in the third quarter. He connected with Smyrna High product Malik Golson for an 8-yard score.

But that was one of the few highlights for the Hornet offense, which was outgained in total yardage 378-280.

“Everybody is on edge right now,” Golson said. “We all have a sense of urgency. Everyone wants to win on this team so it’s a bummer but everybody is keeping positive. We all go into the game thinking we’re going to win. We never think we’re going to lose and we’re going to keep going at it for the rest of the season.”

Rivera did throw for a career-high 219 yards but with an interception.

The Hornet run-game never got going, ending with 61 total yards.

“You always have to be able to run the ball,” Carter said. “We’re not able to knock people back.”

South Carolina State’s defensive effort was led by Preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Javon Hargrave who had three sacks, a forced fumble and a team-high eight tackles.

“It’s not like he all of sudden showed up at our game and was a game-changer,” Carter said. “We knew that was going to be the case. We’re not as stout at guard as we need to be. When you have that, it really affects your run game and your protection.”

Extra points

Terrick Colston recorded an interception and forced a fumble for the DelState defense. The interception was the second in as many games for Colston and the 10th of the senior’s career. … Freshman Brycen Alleyne was DSU’s leading rusher with a career-high 50 yards on 20 carries. … Rashawn Barrett led the Hornet defense with nine tackles. … Wide receiver Aris Scott had eight receptions for 87 yards to give him 27 catches for 316 yards in the last three games. … The Hornets are home against next week with a 2 p.m. kickoff against Bethune-Cookman.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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