First-year head coach Kermit Blount is already turning heads, and setting records. First, Delaware State offed Big South Conference foe VMI 24-21, then bested lower-division Shaw — though that game was perhaps closer than it should have been.
Blount has now became the first Delaware State head coach to win his opening game since 1997, when John McKenzie’s squad topped Cheyney 50-18. Blount also ended a two-game losing streak for Delaware State in season openers, and halted VMI’s six-game win streak in opening dates. The Shaw victory, meanwhile, was the Hornets’ first night-game win at home since besting Florida A&M in 2008, a streak of four tries.
Delaware State — which only one three games last year, and just two in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play — is 2-0 for the first time since 2007.
Both games so far in 2011 have been thrillers, but the Hornets found a way to win. That’s a credit to Blount who, prior to arriving at Delaware State, spent 17 seasons at Winston-Salem State — where he won more games than any other coach at the school with a 91-87-3 record.
In the opener against the Virginia Military Institute, Nick Elko threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns, while preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year Justin Wilson had two scoring catches to lead Delaware State’s 346-yard offensive outburst. But it wasn’t over until Blount’s defense, which forced three turnovers, secured the win with a key fourth-down stop on VMI’s final fourth-quarter possession.
A week later, the Hornets faced a scrappy Shaw program that has captured three of the last four Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships. It took a game-winning Delaware State touchdown after a fumble in the last minute of the game to finish off Shaw, 31-27. Delaware State’s furious comeback included outscoring Shaw 22-3 over the final 15 minutes, capped by Elko’s 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Jackson with just 35 seconds left.
Jackson got a chance to step up when Wilson was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, making 11 catches for 127 yards. But he had to overcome other obstacles, too: He sat in Week 1 at VMI, after Blount suspended Jackson for violating unspecified team rules. Elko, meanwhile, went 25-of-46 passes for 238 yards, but also had three picks — two of which led to touchdowns by Shaw, a winless Division II team.
To repeat the old football cliche, though, it doesn’t get any easier: Delaware State now must ready itself for a Route 1 rivalry game against the University of Delaware. The 1-1 Blue Hens marched all the way to the NCAA’s FCS Championship Game last January, before falling in an excruciating 20-19 loss to Eastern Washington.