CATEGORY: FOC College Football
HED: Statesmen overwhelm Belhaven
By Mark Beason
JACKSON - Heat wasn't the determining factor causing Belhaven to wither in the second half in Saturday's 58 -18 loss to Delta State.
It wasn't too much sunshine, it was too much Rico McDonald. He led the Statesmen to a decsive season-opening victory in the Salvation Army College Football Classic at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
McDonald, a former Ripley star, had a big day for the Statesmen. The junior fullback ran for 106 yards on 12 carries and scored three touchdowns in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
He had touchdown runs of 2, 32 and 27 yards.
"Rico had a big game for us and we expect that," Delta State coach Steve Campbell said. "We are counting on him to have a big year for us."
McDonald led the Statesmen ground attack, which rushed for 332 yards.
Delta State put up some monster offense numbers on the Blazers. The Statesman added 283 yards passing for 615 total yards.
The win marked the first time since 1993 Delta State has won its season opener.
Delta State is a NCAA Division II school, while Belhaven competes in the NAIA and is playing in just its third football season.
"This was a good game for us and it's good to get a win here in the Big House," Campbell said. "It's nice to be able to play in front of the home fans and start the season in Mississippi."
The game was close, 20-12, at the the half, but the Statesmen came out in the second half on fire.
"We struggled a little bit in the first half, but we made some adjustments at halftime," McDonald said. "The offensive line was opening up some good holes and we started clicking."
Delta State broke the game open in the second half, scoring on its first three possessions.
Leading 20-12, the Statesmen struck early in the third quarter on a a 53-yard pass from Josh Bright to Jody Jennings. Billy Dorgan added the point after, putting Delta State up 27-12.
The Delta State defense stymied the Blazers, giving the ball back to its offense. Just five plays later, senior slot back Tanny Flowers, a former Stakville standout, scored from 21 yards out. Dorgan's PAT gave the Statesmen a 34-12 advantage.
McDonald tacked on the third score of the quarter, on a 27-yard run with 5:32 left in the third. Dorgan's extra point gave DSU a 41-12 lead.
"Delta State has an outstanding football team and they took it to us," Belhaven caoch Norman Joseph said. "They made some big plays and we just weren't able to answer."
Defensively, Rory Bell led the Statesmen with 12 tackles, two for a loss.
Down 17-6 late in the first half, Belhaven's offense had its best series of the half.
The Blazers mounted a 12-play, 78-yard drive ending in a 10-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jeff White to Bernard Scott. Belhaven failed to connect on a fake extra point, but pulled within five, 17-12 with 1:13 to play in the half.
Delta State had a chance to add a late touchdown in the first half, advancing inside the Blazers 10-yard line. The Statesmen had to settle for a 23-yard Bill Dorgan field goal. Dorgan's field goal put the Statesmen up 20-12 with just 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Delta State defense provided the first big play of the game for the Statesmen. On the Blazers' third play from scrimmage, Belhaven quarterback Samuel Husband was intercepted by Delta State defensive back Edward Moses.
Delta State capitalized on the Belhaven miscue, with McDonald running in from 2 yards out. The extra point gave Delta Sate a 7-0 lead with 13:50 left to play in the first quarter.