The 2014 season could not have started any better for the Delaware State football team when Aris Scott returned Monmouth’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown; but the Hawks, led by Kwabena Asante’s four touchdowns, rebounded from the blow to post a 52-21 victory over the Hornets at Kessler Field Saturday.
The score was 21-21 when DSU’s Gilbert Rivera, starting in place of injured number one quarterback Esayah Obado, connected with Milton Williams III on a 77-yard touchdown pass with 9:32 left in the second quarter before the Hawks ran off the final 31 points of the game.
Rivera, a transfer from East Los Angeles (Cal.) College who joined the Hornets at the start of preseason camp, completed 14-of-30 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown in his first Division I contest. He also threw two interceptions.
Obado, DSU’s projected starter, did not make the trip due to what’s being described as an injury to the lower extremities. He is listed as game-to-game.
“I thought Gilbert did a fine job at quarterback for us today, given the short amount of time he’s been with us,” said Delaware State head coach Kermit Blount, who fell to 2-2 in season openers with the Hornets. “Monmouth made a couple of nice plays on the interceptions, but overall I give Rivera a great deal of credit for his play today. We have confidence that he can lead our team.”
Monmouth outgained the Hornets 553-to-187 in total offense. The Hawks rushed for 311 yards and threw for 242. Delaware State passed for 158 yards, but was held to 29 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The season started with a bang when Scott took the opening kickoff near the right sideline, side-stepped a couple of tacklers and outran the Monmouth coverage team to the endzone for the touchdown just 16 seconds into the game. It was the Hornets’ first kickoff return for a touchdown since Brandon Hudson’s against North Carolina A&T in 2007.
“I give a great deal of credit to my blockers,” said Scott. “They gave me some nice lanes, and all I had to do was get by the kicker for the touchdown.”
Monmouth didn’t take long to answer the opening salvo.
Asante capped off a 14-play, 72-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to get the Hawks on the board with 8:18 left in the opening quarter.
Delaware State responded to Monmouth’s score with touchdown on its first offensive series of the season to regain the lead.
The Hawks committed three penalties for 45 yards to aid the Hornets in the three-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Rivera also had a 16-yard pass to Williams III to the Monmouth 20 during the march. Running back Malcolm Williams capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run for DSU’s second score of the game. Jeremiah
McGeough’s extra point kick gave the Hornets a 14-7 lead with 6:07 left in the first quarter.
McGeough handled punting and placekicking duties in the game due to an injury to Hornets’ senior placekicker Mitchell Ward.
Monmouth answered with 13 consecutive points to take its first lead. The Hawks scored the first three points of the run following a fumble on a Delaware State kickoff return.
The Hornets led 14-13 when Monmouth took the lead for the first time. Asante scored his second touchdown of the game on a 13-yard run to give the Hawks a 19-14 lead with 11:05 left in the second quarter. A two-point run by Greg Depugh stretched the Monmouth lead to 21-14.
On the ensuing Delaware State possession, Rivera hooked up with Williams III on a 77-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-12 play to pull the Hornets to within a point. McGeough’s extra point tied the score at 21-21 with 9:32 to go before halftime.
Williams III, a preseason All-MEAC First Team selection and FC All-America candidate, had six catches for 121 yards. It was the sixth 100-yard game of his career.
The tie didn’t last long as Monmouth scored on its next possession to take the lead for good.
The Hawks scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Brandon Hill to Asante midway through the second quarter. The extra point kick by Lucas Santangelo gave the Hawks a 28-21 lead with 7:12 left in the second quarter.
Monmouth outscored the Hornets 24-0 in the second half. DSU was held to just 47 yards on 24 plays in the final 30 minutes.
“I thought we gained some good momentum after the strong start and the long touchdown pass, but Monmouth was the much more physical team the rest of the way,” said Blount. “We made some big plays in the game, but couldn’t put together many sustained drives on offense; and defensively, we must do a better job finishing plays. Still, I believe this game gave us something to build on this season.”
Asante had 152 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and two receptions for 27 yards and a score; while Hill completed 23-of-36 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawks.
Willie Bolden had a career-high eight tackles, including seven unassisted, while J.R. Robinson collected three tackles and two pass break-ups for the Hornets.
The Hornets return to action next Saturday (Sep. 6) at Delaware in the Route 1 Rivalry. Game time is 6:00 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in Newark The Hens opened the season with a 63-0 loss to FBS Pittsburgh of the Atlantic Coast Conference today. Delaware State is 0-5 all-time against its First State rival.
Delaware State did not commit a penalty, while Monmouth was flagged nine times for 92 yards … the Hornets have been the MEAC’s least penalized team in four of the last five seasons .. this was Delaware State’s first game in next door New Jersey since 1996 (vs. William Patterson).