Statesmen steamroll to national title, 63-34

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 11, 2000

FLORENCE, Ala. Only one word could describe Delta State’s performance Saturday against Bloomsburg (Pa.) wow.

Two more words can now be used to describe the Statesmen national champions.

Delta State rolled up a championship-game record 649 yards of total offense, never punted and broke or tied nearly every scoring record for a Division II championship game, along with four other title game records, in a 63-34 win for the Division II national championship.

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Josh Bright ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns, six Statesmen scored touchdowns and DSU rushed for a title-game record 524 yards.

“We came out and we balled and we went at them with all we had. It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe it,” said Delta State slotback Deforest Hart, a Vicksburg High and Hinds product who rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. “Our offense performed. First back, second back, third back, everybody contributed.”

The title is the first for Delta State (14-1), and capped a remarkable season. Picked to finish near the bottom of its own conference, the Statesmen instead finished the season hoisting a national championship trophy and looking at a championship ring from a representative of last year’s champion, Northwest Missouri State which has the same colors as DSU for ideas for their own rings.

“The first couple of games, the way we played, we looked at things and knew our offense was unbelievable,” Hart said. “With the backs we had, the quarterback, the backup quarterback, we figured we had a chance for a pretty good year. But never anything like this.”

After a wild first quarter that saw touchdowns on every possession and a title-game record 28 combined points by both teams, Delta State started to pull away in the second quarter.

Tanny Flowers scored on a 1-yard run with 12:17 left in the quarter to give DSU a 21-14 lead, and the DSU defense finally forced Bloomsburg (12-3) to punt when wide receiver Tierell Johnson dropped a pass on third-and-13.

The Statesmen responded with a nine-play, 50-yard drive capped by Rico McDonald’s 1-yard TD run that gave DSU a 28-14 lead. Bloomsburg quickly drove to the Delta State 35 on its next possession, but running back Arrastene Henry fumbled, DSU recovered, and 10 plays later Jason Franklin scored on a reverse from 10 yards out to make it 35-14.

“That was big. That allowed us to be able to go up by two touchdowns. Really, we broke serve there,” DSU head coach Steve Campbell said of the defensive stop.

Bloomsburg recovered an onsides kick to start the second half and drove in for a score on a 1-yard run by quarterback Eric Miller, but the Statesmen responded with another scoring drive, capped by Hart’s 5-yard TD run, to make it 42-21.

Bloomsburg answered, however, driving 45 yards in nine plays and scoring on Miller’s 16-yard pass to Darryl Williams, his third of the game, to cut it to 42-28. But again the DSU offense proved to be unstoppable.

The Statesmen drove 62 yards in just four plays, thanks in part to a 32-yard run by Hart, and Bright ran up the middle for a 25-yard TD to push the lead back to 21 points.

When Bloomsburg failed to move the ball on its next possession, DSU went 74 yards in 13 plays, eating nearly six minutes off the clock, to put the game away.

Tanny Flowers scored on a 7-yard run with 12:03 left in the fourth quarter to give DSU a 56-28 lead and the Huskies, trying to play catch-up, finally couldn’t keep up.

“Delta State played a great football game. They sure were the better team,” Bloomsburg coach Danny Hale said. “We could not stop them offensively.

They were in a zone execution-wise and that’s what I was afraid of. Because their size and their athleticism, they were able to exploit us.”

Bloomsburg scored the game’s first touchdown, on a 7-yard pass from Miller to Mike Lelko, but DSU responded with a 35-yard TD run by Bright to cut it to 7-6, then gambled with a surprise onsides kick and recovering it. The move gave DSU the ball near midfield, Bright eventually scored on a 7-yard run, and the Statesmen controlled the scoreboard and the game from there.

“Today we were just clicking on all cylinders,” Bright said, “and the last game of the year, that’s what you want to do.”