Hornets eye big challenge as UD visits

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DOVER — In terms of the football series between Delaware State University and the University of Delaware, this is a historic matchup.

This is the first time the Blue Hens will be making the trip down to Dover. Delaware State is hosting the Route 1 Rivalry this time, with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

This is also one of the better Delaware teams in recent memory, as DSU coach Rod Milstead is aware of.

The Hornets enter the contest at 2-1 overall, having just defeated Howard 37-28 this past Saturday. Delaware meanwhile is 3-0 and ranked No. 8 in FCS during this abbreviated spring season.

The Hens had their scheduled game last weekend canceled after Albany chose to end its season. Delaware last played on March 27, earning a 35-21 win over Rhode Island, which was ranked No. 18 in the country at the time.

“Delaware is playing really, really well, ranked high in the country,” Milstead said. “We’re looking forward to a really challenging game. They’ve had an extra week to prepare for us and we have a week to prepare for them.”

Like most teams in 2021, both the Hornets and Hens have dealt with their fair share of schedule changes this year.

Delaware also had a game against New Hampshire canceled while Delaware State was idle for three straight weeks waiting to play Howard for the second time this season.

“It’s just another obstacle,” Milstead said. “The goal is still the same, the prize is still the same. There’s an opportunity to play a game against somebody else, a meaningful game. Yeah it’s difficult because of the waiting, but victory loves preparation and that’s what we think about when we’re at practice.”

Delaware State has never beaten Delaware in nine all-time meetings.

The last time these two teams played, in 2019, the Hornets held a lead against Delaware for the first time ever when they went up 6-3 in the second quarter. The Hens responded with 28 unanswered points for a 31-13 victory.

Delaware State stopped a skid of its own last week, winning its first road game in its last 34 chances. The victory at Howard was the first on the road for the Hornets since Oct. 11, 2014 against Norfolk State.

For a program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2013, last Saturday’s result provided some of the best numbers for Delaware State in almost 10 years.

It was the highest scoring output against a Division I opponent for the Hornets since a 39-36 win against Howard in 2011. It also sent the Hornets to a 2-1 start for the first time since the 2012 season.

But Milstead knows playing a team ranked as highly as Delaware will be a tougher test for his squad, which has a loss to South Carolina State along with its two wins against Howard.

“We still haven’t played a complete game yet,” Milstead said. “We need to minimize our mistakes and maximize our talent.”