The Delaware State football team feels it has its best team since their last winning season of 2012.
They’ll have a chance to get halfway to that goal Saturday afternoon when Northeastern Conference contender Merrimack College comes to Alumni Stadium.The Warriors had their run of Dover a year ago in a 47-10 romp, so the Hornets will be looking for revenge. Here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s game.
Running back by committee profitable for DSU
Delaware State does not have a primary ball carrier. A four-back rotation of Milford graduate Marquis Gillis, Wade Inge, Michael Chris-Ike and Thomas Bertrand-Hudon have combined for a MEAC-leading 537 yards in three weeks.
Considering Merrimack has allowed 652 yards on the ground in their three games, this could be a huge advantage for the Hornets in keeping their defense off the field and potentially setting up the passing game.
Merrimack likes to pass. A lot.
The Warriors average 219 passing yards per contest and that big-play capability is cause for concern for a Hornet secondary looking to find its way after Middletown graduate Esaias Guthrie entered the transfer portal earlier this season.
The Merrimack attack is led by sophomore quarterback Jack Zergiotis, who carved up Harvard’s defense last Saturday to the tune of 294 yards and three touchdowns on 23 of 43 passing. Zergiotis, named NEC co-player of the week for his efforts, has a variety of weapons to choose from, led by wideouts Jacari Carter (14 receptions, 257 yards, two touchdowns) and Hayden Fisher (12 receptions, 184 yards, two touchdowns).
Hornet defense must remain aggressive
DSU’s defense loves to employ a variety of schemes and coverages that can freak out many an opponent — even the University of Delaware needed to get used to the stunts and blitzes of the Hornet front seven.
More of that will be needed Saturday against Merrimack’s Air Raid offense, and if Delaware State can keep the Warriors from getting a ground game going (they average only 67 rushing yards per game), that could force Merrimack into rushed passes that may not always find an open receiver.
Passing game needs to come alive
Merrimack loves to throw the ball and the Hornets will have to match big-play capability if they’re going to win Saturday. Milstead said Saturday that Jared Lewis (hip) could’ve re-entered Saturday’s game against VUL, but he wanted to give Hodgson graduate C.J. Henry a chance to play a full game. Henry played very well against the Dragons, giving the Hornet coaching staff confidence that regardless of which one of these two is under center, there is a quarterback capable of throwing the ball.
Jerrish Halsey’s breakout performance gives the Hornets a reliable receiver, but others will need to step up to keep DSU in the hunt this weekend and beyond.
Delaware State has been fortunate that the overall talent level was able to push the Hornets ahead of Lincoln and VUL and keep things from getting out of hand against UD, but the slow starts are a point of concern for the team. Against a high-powered passing attack such as Merrimack’s, one or two big plays could have a team down 14 points before realizing there’s a game going on. The Hornets must come out with a sense of urgency if they are to realize their goal of a win.