By Chris Stevens | HBCU Sports
Returning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s top-ranked defense is something the Delaware State University football team is more than happy to hang its hat on coming into the 2022 season.
They were more than happy to keep Lincoln from hanging any points on the scoreboard in Saturday’s season opener, too.
A forced fumble by senior linebacker Kamari Jackson sparked a 24-point second half for the Hornets, who blanked the CIAA-member Lions 34-0, pitching the first Delaware State shutout since a 24-0 decision over North Carolina A&T in 2012.
“I wasn’t pleased with how we played in that first half,” Hornets head coach Rod Milstead said. “I wanted to see more consistency on offense and in the second half, our defense got us some short fields and we were able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
“We know we’re going to have to make a lot of plays, stay on the field a little longer and create takeaways to set our offense up,” Jackson said. “That’s what the fumble did.”
With Lincoln switching to freshman quarterback Isaiah Freeman in the second half, the Lions offense appeared to be on the move late in the third quarter, but Jackson punched the ball out of running back Davon Allen’s hands and into the grasp of Hornets defensive tackle Corey St. John.
Deep in Lions’ territory, the Hornets converted thanks to a 1-yard push into the end zone by Thomas Bertrand-Hudon to extend their lead to 17-0 with 2:46 to go in the quarter.
Delaware State (1-0) added a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jared Lewis to Devin Curry, a 35-yard field goal by kicker Nathan Wilson and a 17-yard scoring run by C.J. Henry in the fourth quarter to close the scoring. Hornet running backs outgained Lincoln’s 215-60 with converted defensive back Marquis Gillis collecting 70 yards to lead the charge.
“My coaches gave me an opportunity when we had injuries at running back last year,” Gillis said. “They give everybody an opportunity, you just have to come in, work hard and prove yourself.”
Isaiah Freeman completed 12 of 19 passes for 130 yards to lead Lincoln’s offense. Junior receiver Dahmear Triplett caught six passes for 64 yards and running back Samuel Jordan led the Lions with 33 yards on five carries.
Lincoln travels to Central State of the SIAC next weekend while Delaware State renews its Route 1 Rivalry with the University of Delaware.