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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Delaware State Still Stuck in Losing Rut

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

It was the best season in Delaware State football history, even though it ended with a lopsided loss to the one team it wanted to beat the most.

Still, after winning 10 games and the MEAC championship, the Hornets faithful hoped and believed that magical 2007 season was just a step in the right direction and they would keep taking those steps. At last, they had a team they could root for and support.

Instead, Delaware State went in the opposite direction, and in the eight years since 2007 they’ve only had one winning season while going through three coaches. Things have really snowballed the last three years – the Hornets were a combined 3-21 in 2014 and 2015 and this season they’re 0-5 going into Saturday’s homecoming game against Florida A&M. Their overall record since they won the MEAC championship in ’07 is 29-63.

Actually, losing is part of Delaware State’s tradition. The Hornets had a couple of good stretches during the reigns of coaches Joe Purzycki and Bill Collick in the 1980s, but since they started playing football in 1924 – when they played one game, against Lincoln, and lost 65-0 – Delaware State’s overall record is 353-416-11. In the 46 years they’ve been in the MEAC they’ve only won six conference titles, and five of them came in a seven-year span during the Purzycki-Collick era.

Why have the Hornets been so bad for so long?

Over the years they’ve had some good players and coaches and they play in the MEAC, not the SEC, so they should have won a lot more games and championships. But except for those rare winning seasons – especially 2007, when the Hornets were 10-2 and undefeated (8-0) in the MEAC before losing 44-7 in the playoffs to a Delaware team that was led by quarterback Joe Flacco and advanced to the national championship game – Delaware State has lost, lost, lost.

Its location probably doesn’t help. Delaware State has a nice, student-friendly campus in Dover, but it’s located right off of Route 13, across from and next to a bunch of fast-food joints and auto parts stores. When a college recruits a player it only has one chance to make a good first impression, and the first impression a recruit gets of Delaware State is blacktop and neon and lots of traffic lights.

Still, that shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle.

Has it been their inability to hire a coach who can consistently recruit superior players at the mid-major level? Has it been their lack of patience with some of those coaches? Is the program getting the help it needs from the top levels of administration? Most likely it’s all of the above.

This year’s Delaware State team started off with a 56-14 loss to Delaware, which wasn’t unexpected. But then they lost to Monmouth 34-20 before getting creamed by Missouri 79-0. That must have been a strange experience for the Hornets players – one week, they’re playing at home against Monmouth in front of 2,454 fans and the next week that on the road at Missouri in front of 54,472 fans.

The Hornets fared better in their next two games against MEAC opponents Morgan State and Hampton, losing 20-17 and 27-17. But they’re at the bottom of just about every statistic the MEAC keeps, including total offense (Delaware State is 10th in the 11-team conference) and total defense (11th). In fact, the only two areas where the Hornets are near the top of the MEAC stat sheet are negative ones – they’re second in number of punts and first in number of penalties.

Despite it all, the Hornets do get some leeway since this is only Kenny Carter’s second season as coach and he hasn’t had a chance to stock his lineup with his recruits. And Delaware State does have some good, young players, including junior quarterback Daniel Epperson, sophomore running back Brycen Alleyne, freshman running back Mike Waters, junior receiver Mason Rutherford, freshman receiver Fatu Sua-Godine – who was just named MEAC rookie of the week after catching five passes yards for 84 yards and a touchdown against Hampton – sophomore defensive back Logan Wescott, junior linebacker Malik Harris and senior linebacker Rashawn Barrett.

So, unlike Dave Brock, who is in his fourth year as coach at the University of Delaware, Carter deserves more time to turn things around. But this is Delaware State, so even if time is on Carter’s side, history isn’t.

Photo courtesy Prooznytvelegrph

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