The Statesmen will be working this week to correct the mistakes they made in their 45-37 loss to the Texas A&M Commerce Lions at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Delta State’s offense racked up 451 yards on 110 plays, while the defense gave up 354 yards on 75 plays. Three of Texas A&M Commerce’s touchdowns didn’t come on offense. The defense scored two touchdowns (1 interception return, 1 fumble recovery), while the return team scored another one (83-yard return).
“My hat goes off to Texas A&M Commerce, but I felt like we made a bunch of crucial mistakes,” Delta State head football coach Todd Cooley said at the DSU press conference Monday. “We gave up two touchdowns while we were playing offense, and we gave up a special teams score. You just can’t do that when you’re playing a quality opponent. You can’t do that anytime. We’ve challenged our football team to take care of those mistakes and take care of those miscues.”
Last week, DSU went into the game ranked No. 25 in the American Football Coaches Association Poll. It was the first time the team had been ranked since 2011. DSU will go into Saturday’s game against North Alabama unranked. North Alabama, 24th is this week’s AFCA Poll, will be the Statesmen’s first Gulf South Conference game of the year.
Cooley said going into Friday’s game ranked could have had a negative effect on the players.
“I think sometimes when you’re the hunter and come out with a chip on your shoulder, you’re comfortable in that role,” Cooley said. “You win a football game and everybody gets excited. All of a sudden, you get ranked and become the hunted. I just think that we weren’t ready for that role quite just yet. I think if you ask our players, they’ll admit to that. They’re a very honest group. ‘Coach, we thought we’ve arrived.’ You ain’t ever arrived. We’ve got to keep getting better everyday. We’re back to hunting this week.”
Cooley said one positive aspect about the game was the way the team competed together.
“I think our football team is a pretty close-knit group,” Cooley said. “We played hard. With the breaks that went against us in that game, I think that becomes a blowout with any other football team. We were still playing there in the end. We had an onside kick to get the football back. I was proud of our football team in that respect. We just have to play a little smarter.”
One player that is gradually stepping up for Delta State is junior quarterback Travis Champion. Champion, who started in DSU’s season opening 24-14 win over Mississippi Valley State University, came off the bench after starting quarterback Dennis Robertson left the game in the third quarter due to a broken collarbone. Champion completed 31-of-40 passes for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the year, Champion has completed 50-of-69 passes for 511 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. All three of Champion’s touchdown throws have come in the second half. Champion will get the start against UNA.
“I thought he competed really, really well,” Cooley said about Champion. “I thought he took what they gave him really, really well. He’s a very cerebral player. He was a starter at Hampton, and he’s played a lot of college football.”
Another bright spot for Delta State has been the emergence of freshman Vince Sciorrotta at place kicker. In Friday’s game, Sciorrotta was 3-of-4 on field goal attempts and 4-for-4 on PAT kicks. For the year, Sciorrotta is 4-for-5 in field goal attempts and a perfect 7-for-7 on PAT kicks.
“He’s done a good job, and he’s done what we’ve expected him to do,” Cooley said about Sciorrotta. “He’s one of 13 true freshmen that played. I have no idea how many newcomers we’re playing. We’ve played 13 true freshmen, and we’re going to play our 14th one this week. Vince has done like the rest of them. He’s stepped in. He’s expected to do well, and there’s expectations here. That’s why he came here.”
DSU’s game against North Alabama will be in Florence and it will start at 6 p.m.