The Delta State Statesmen and the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils renewed their gridiron rivalry Saturday in Itta Bena in the beautiful confines of Rice-Totten Stadium.
The game started slow, but picked up late as the Statesmen overcame four first half turnovers to take a 24-14 victory over the Delta Devils.
The victory is the first in the Todd Cooley era at Delta State as the Statesmen start the year 1-0. Mississippi Valley State falls to 0-2 on the year.
Cooley was he was proud of the team and how they responded after starting the first half with four turnovers.
"In the second half we protected the ball. We knew what we could do; we just had to protect the ball. You have to give a lot of credit to Valley because they had a lot to do with those turnovers. We walked in at halftime and told the team that we turned the ball over four times, but we're only down four points and that everything was going to be ok," said Cooley.
The Statesmen, who ran an up tempo offensive attack all game, appeared to get stronger as the day went on and Cooley felt the team's conditioning really showed.
"I knew our conditioning was going to be a factor in the fourth quarter and I think that showed in our running game there in the end," said Cooley.
The first quarter was a defensive struggle as both teams held the other squad's offensive attacks at bay.
Delta State's Travis Champion had a rough first half as he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Valley's offense didn't fair any better as the Statesmen defense forced four first half punts.
The tide started to turn a little for the Statesmen in the second quarter when Champion connected with Casey Osborne for a big catch down to the Delta Devil's five-yard line.
The Statesmen's offense stalled, but Vince Sciorrotta came through with a 23-yard field goal to give Delta State a 3-0 lead with 12:25 left in the second quarter.
The Statesmen forced the Delta Devils to punt on their next possession, but on DSU's next drive, Champion threw his second interception of the first half to put Valley back in business.
This time the Delta Devils made the Statesmen pay as they drove the ball down the field, which culminated in a short touchdown run from Cortez Frizell. The kick after from Cherchen Galon was good and with 4:09 left in the first half Valley took a 7-3 lead, which remained locked that way until halftime.
In the third quarter things started to pick up for the Statesmen as Champion found Osborne for his first touchdown of the day with 3:17 left in the quarter. Sciorrotta added the point after for a 10-7 DSU lead.
With the contest now sitting in the fourth quarter, Valley found themselves backed up and having to punt yet again. The punt put the Statesmen back on the attack. The result was the same as before as Champion and Osborne hooked up again on another touchdown pass with 12:04 left in the fourth quarter> Sciorrotta's point after was successful to give DSU a 17-7 lead.
This time the score from DSU seem to inspire Valley to put points on the board and with 8:58 left in the game Valley's Richard Drake caught a touchdown pass. Galon added the point after for a 17-14 game.
The Statesmen's next possession resulted in a punt, but the Delta Devils could not take advantage and punted as well.
When the Statesmen returned to offense they drove the ball down the field and with 4:04 left on the clock, Timothy Foy plowed into the end zone for the touchdown. The point after was good and DSU held a 24-14 lead.
The Statesmen put the final nail in the coffin on Valley's next possession when Richard Nash intercepted a pass from Valley's Jeremy Collins.
The Statesmen kneeled on the ball to wrap the game up and give Cooley first win as Delta State's head coach.
The Statesmen finished the day with 84 plays for 431 total yards. The Statesmen had 206 yards rushing and 225 yards passing. Valley ran 74 plays for 359 total yards. The Delta Devils had 235 yards passing and 124 yards rushing.
Champion finished the day completing 19-of-30 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Osborne caught eight passes for 90 yards with two TDs. Richard Freelon rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries, Foy had 74 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and D'Juan Bellaire had 63 yards on seven carries.
Collins led Valley by completing 30-of-50 passes for 235 yards with one TD and one interception. Julian Stafford had eight catches for 60 yards and Drake had seven catches for 40 yards with a touchdown.
Delta State will be back in action at 5 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas to take on Texas A & M University Commerce.
Valley will take on Alcorn at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lorman.