It’s been a wild ride, but Delaware State is going places under Kermit Blount

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.

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‘Deep, fast, strong’ South Carolina State starts 2011 atop Urban Sports News poll

South Carolina State will begin the 2011 football campaign at No. 1 on the Urban Sports News preseason poll, compiled by John Posey, Henry Bailey and a network of local associates and analysts.

Fellow Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program Bethune-Cookman is at No. 2, followed by Jackson State from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Defending SIAC champion Albany State follows at No. 4, with Florida A&M founding out the preseason Top. 5.

Here’s a look at the complete list, with comments from USN …

Urban Sports News Black College Football 2011 Preseason Poll
Rank, team, record, USN comments
1.: South Carolina State (0-0): Deep, fast, strong.
2.: Bethune-Cookman (0-0): PV, SC State, Hampton, Miami. All in September. We’ll find out if they are a contender or pretender.
3.: Jackson State (0-0): Big-time QB. Huge line. Will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
4.: Albany State (0-0): Defending champs; suspect schedule. Need to play the big boys in preseason.
5.: Florida A&M (0-0): Finished strong in 2010, but tough September schedule: Fort Valley State, Hampton, South Florida.
6.: Texas Southern (0-0): 212 Defense will keep Tigers in every game. Weak nonconference schedule; PV, JSU and Grambling games will determine if they win the West.
7.: Tuskegee (0-0): Alabama A&M, Fort Valley State & Alabama State games will make or break season.
8.: Shaw (0-0): Could be undefeated heading into last two games.
9.: Grambling (0-0): First five games are a beast. Defense will have to carry young offense. TSU showdown at home.
10.: Hampton (0-0): Defense is stout. Need to score some points.

Others receiving consideration: Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Fort Valley State, Morehouse, Prairie View, Saint Augustine’s, Winston Salem-State, Virginia State.

Bethune-Cookman opens new year atop Heritage Sports preseason poll

Pre-season praise continues to follow Bethune-Cookman, after its breakout initial campaign under Brian Jenkins. The Wildcats, along with Albany State, will open the 2011 campaign atop the Heritage Sports Radio Network’s pre-season Football Championship Subdivision and Division II Top-10 polls.

MEAC foe South Carolina State begins the new season at No. 2, followed by Florida A&M. The SWAC makes its first appearance on the poll at No. 4, with Jackson State. Grambling follows at No. 5.

HERITAGE SPORTS RADIO NETWORK PRESEASON TOP 10 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLLS
(First-place votes in parenthesis)

FCS-DIVISION I
1. Bethune Cookman (10) 174
2. South Carolina State (5) 171
3. Florida A&M (3) 152
4. Jackson State (2) 138
5. Grambling State 127
6. Texas Southern 110
7. Hampton 69
8. Alabama State 55
9. Prairie View 38
10. Norfolk State 24
Others receiving votes: Alcorn State 20, North Carolina Central 10, Alabama A&M 5, Tennessee State 4, Morgan State 2, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 1

DIVISION II
1. Albany State (17) 195
2. Shaw (3) 179
3. Tuskegee 160
4. St. Augustine’s 123
5. Fort Valley State 10
6. Winston-Salem State 105
7. Morehouse 78
8. Virginia State 54
9. Elizabeth City State 49
10. Bowie State 34
Others receiving votes: Fayetteville State 11, Miles 2, Langston 2

Voters are comprised of HSRN staff and writers, along with selected media representatives and SIDs.