DSU falls short to Florida A&M
Dover — The Delaware State Hornets' 24-22 loss to the Florida A&M University Rattlers was the team’s third strong performance in a row to end in the sting of defeat.
The team let it be known they are no longer content with moral victories.
“This is not horseshoes. Getting close, it doesn’t mean anything. You don’t get superlatives for being close,” wide receiver Travis Tarpley said.
“We just needed to make one more play,” linebacker Ernest Adjei said. “This is a feeling that hurts.”
“They made plays where we should have made plays,” Coach Kermit Blount said. “The kids played hard.”
During the team’s three-game losing streak, the Hornets have been in games against Delaware (38-14) and Cincinnati (23-7).
The Hornets had chances against the Rattlers, one of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s traditional powers. Down 24-16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Hornets marched 75 yards in 10 plays and scored on running back Nagee Jackson’s 5-yard run. Needing a two-point conversion to tie, Nick Elko’s pass fell incomplete.
A stop on defense could have given DSU the ball back, but the Hornets were unable to get off the field on four third-down chances during the Rattlers’ 15-play, 68-yard clock killing march.
The Hornets offensive stars were Tarpley, who caught 10 balls for 129 yards, and reserve running back Dae-Hon Cheung, filling in for injured starter Malcolm Williams, finishing with 135 yards on 18 carries and two scores.
Cheung ripped off his very first run of the game for 26 yards and accumulated 50 yards on five carries, including the Hornets’ first score, a 10-yard touchdown run. Cheung rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries in the first half alone.
But the Delaware State defense had troubles of its own containing Rattlers quarterback Damien Fleming, who used scrambles and bubble screen passes with the occasional bomb to rack up 399 yards passing with three touchdowns.
“We knew they were going to play the game to the outside. We knew they weren’t going to run the ball inside,” Adjei said.
In the first half, a well-executed screen to James Owens answered Cheung’s touchdown, while a beautiful fade route and catch between Fleming and Travis Harvey gave the Rattlers a 14-10 lead at the half. Harvey was the Rattlers’ other offensive star, tormenting the DSU secondary for 11 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
With FAMU using its screen game, Delaware State adjusted to give the Rattlers a taste of their own medicine in the second half, featuring more bubble screens to Tarpley on the outside. The most notable of these was an 18-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter where Tarpley caught the ball on the right side of the field, then reversed direction and wove his way across the field.
“I felt like I was in 10th grade at GW High School in Danville, Va. I just caught the ball, and I saw green grass. My coach in high school always told me, ‘See green, get to it,’” Tarpley said.
Down 11 in the third quarter, it was Cheung who got the Hornets back into the game with a 22-yard touchdown run, where, by his own estimation, he broketwo or three tackles on the way to paydirt. With the score at 21-16, Blount decided to eschew the extra point to go for two, to get within three. Blount defended his decision after the game.
“That was the right thing to do. It put us in striking distance. If I had to go back and do it again, I’d do it the same way,” he said.
“For the last three weeks, we’ve been talking about trying to figure out how to get away from moral victories. Moral victories are good, but we want some W’s under our belts,” Blount said.