Two Top 10 Teams Will Collide at Delta State
Delta State senior linebacker LeDarion Robinson understands Saturday’s home game against No. 2 West Georgia is important and one of the best in all of NCAA Division II this week.
West Georgia will bring its 6-0 record and high-powered offense into McCool Stadium in Cleveland, Miss., and face its biggest road challenge so far this season. Delta State is 5-1 and ranked No. 8 in the country.
In addition to what is at stake in this Gulf South Conference battle, the game will be shown on ESPN3.
“It is a game, regardless of where it is being shown, it is a game,” Robinson said. “You can’t feed into the hype.”
Based on the way Delta State bounced back from its first loss of the season, the Statesmen are ready for their next challenge.
Good football teams overcome the adversity they face during a season. On Oct. 3, against Florida Tech., the Statesmen suffered more than a 41-37 loss. Starting quarterback Tyler Sullivan, a junior, was injured. He threw the ball 52 times and completed 30 passes in the game.
Obviously, Sullivan is important to Delta State’s offense.
The Statesmen went into last week’s game at Shorter, starting a true freshman at quarterback in Tyler Cameron, who completed 13 of 19 passes for 196 yards in a 38-17 win.
“It was pretty big because in football you have to be ready to step up and play at any given time,” Robinson said.
Delta State head coach Todd Cooley liked the way his team responded to the first loss of the season.
“For us to get a win on the road was be a big accomplishment,” Cooley said. “We have to play better this week to have a chance to beat West Georgia. It is going to be a tough challenge. We are just trying to focus on playing as a team.”
Series history: Delta State leads 18-11
Last meeting: West Georgia 37-27 in NCAA D II Quarterfinals, Nov. 29
Total offense: West Georgia, 443.5; Delta State, 442.2
Total defense: West Georgia, 211.5; Delta State, 381.3
Points scored: West Georgia, 45.4; Delta State, 44.2
Points allowed: West Georgia, 14.8; Delta State, 21.2
A battle of unbeaten teams
Next week Midwestern State plays at Texas A&M-Commerce. Both teams are 4-0 and tied for first in the Lone Star Conference. Fans from both schools are probably humming about it already.
The Midwestern State players can’t afford to join that chorus this week.
“Our coach has put an emphasis on not looking ahead to Commerce,” said Midwestern State senior safety Marqui Christian.
That is because the Mustangs have an equally big game Saturday. In a nonconference matchup, No. 18 Midwestern State, 6-0, takes on No. 15 Humboldt State, 5-0, at 8 p.m. Central at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Playing a top nonconference team at midseason adds to the flavor of the game.
“It will be a playoff atmosphere,” Christian said. “But we are taking it one game at a time. We are trying to play better.”
As fall settles in and the weather turns cooler, it is definitely a fun time for football teams, especially ones that are in the hunt for a conference title and trying to make a push for postseason.
“It is a great time of year,” Christian said. “Guys are really excited. We are 6-0. Guys have bought into the program. At practice everybody likes being around each other.”
Playing teams in the Lone Star is great preparation for Midwestern State when it plays ranked, nonconference opponents.
“It is super fun,” Christian said of playing in the Lone Star. “There are a lot of great players. We always face great competition.”
Michigan Tech faces tough road test
On the way to a 5-0 start, twice Michigan Tech has won by a single point and another time it won by five points.
“Four or five have gone to the last couple of minutes, last play of the game type of situations,” Michigan Tech coach tom Kearly said. “We made plays that have won ball games in crucial situations.”
While it is nice that Michigan Tech, ranked No. 9, has pulled out these games, Kearly doesn’t want his team to always be in these tight situations.
“I always tell our football team that if you play enough coin-flip games, last possession, last drive, whatever, they are going to even out,” Kearly said. “It is like flipping a coin. In our last 11 coin flip games, we are 9-2. The coin is eventually going to turn tail on us.”
The odds are favorable that the Huskies will be in another tense battle Saturday when they travel to No. 19 Grand Valley State, 5-1. Kickoff is 7 p.m. (ET).
“They have great team speed,” Kearly said. “They run well at every position so we have to be concerned with that. We are very concerned with their team speed. We can’t make mistakes.”
Kearly pointed to Grand Valley State’s 38-17 victory over Wayne State on how explosive the Lakers can be.
“With a minute to go in the first half, Wayne State is up 10-0, but with 1 minute gone in the fourth quarter, it is 35-10 Grand Valley,” Kearly said. “They put five touchdowns on the board in 17 minutes.”
Michigan Tech begins a stretch of playing three road games over the next four weeks and three of those opponents are ranked in the Top 25. But the Huskies have had success on the road.
“This is only our second time on the road,” Kearly said. “We were 5-0 on the road last year and won our last two road games in 2013. We have an eight-game winning streak on the road. I don’t think it is a situation where we can’t win on the road.
“But we are also playing a really good team on the road.”
Indeed. And it only gets harder. Next week Michigan Tech is at No. 3 Ferris State and on Nov. 7, the Huskies are at No. 11 Ashland.
“Our next four opponents are collectively 21-3 so if we look ahead at all, we are going to be sitting here Monday and Tuesday with some Ls. We are not good enough to be able to look ahead,” Kearly said.
ASN game of the week
At noon Eastern Saturday, Lenoir-Rhyne gets an opportunity to show why it is ranked No. 14 in the country.
The Bears, 5-1, take on Wingate, 5-1, in a game that will be aired on the American Sports Network. It is also Lenoir-Rhyne’s Homecoming.
Since losing to North Greenville, the Bears have won four straight games, averaging 61 points in those contests. Wingate is coming off its first loss of the season, falling to Tusculum 26-17.