After losing to North Alabama 20-7 on Oct. 28, the postseason chances for the Delta State University Statesmen at the time took a hit.
They dropped their second in a row and fell two spots from No. 5 to No. 7 in the Super Region Two Poll. DSU was still in the playoff picture but the team was sliding.
Delta State head football coach Toddy Cooley told his players, fans and media members that we’re not dead yet. The Statesmen took on that mentality the next week and got back into the win column on Nov. 4 when they defeated North Greenville 33-30 in Tigerville, S.C. in overtime, which kept the team ranked No. 7 in the Super Region Two Poll for a second straight week.
The Statesmen knew Saturday’s homecoming game against the Florida Tech Panthers at Parker Field-McCool Stadium would be the make or break game. Delta State got off to a slow start falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter, but the Statesmen got off the deck and scored 35 unanswered points to win 42-20 in Gulf South Conference action. It was also senior day.
The win enabled DSU to clinch a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Division II Playoffs as the Statesmen (8-3, 5-3 GSC) will take on Bowie State in Bowie, MD Saturday. Florida Tech finished its year at 5-6 with a 3-5 mark in the GSC.
DSU finished the regular season tied for second in the GSC. The Statesmen were preseason picked to finish sixth in the conference before the season began.
“This is a special group,” Cooley said. “I said that a week ago. We’re not dead yet. We’re in now. To be preseason picked sixth in the conference and do what we just did, I’m proud of them.”
The berth to the postseason marks the second time DSU has made the playoffs in Cooley’s five-year tenure. The first time came in 2014. Overall, DSU will be in the postseason for the ninth time in school history.
To battle back against Florida Tech, DSU called on senior running back Chris Robinson to carry the mail and he did just that as he rushed for 210 yards with four touchdowns on 28 carries. He marched on touchdowns runs of four yards and 18 yards respectively in the second quarter and touchdown runs of five yards and 27 yards in the third quarter to help DSU take a 35-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Robinson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark (1,079) for the season and his four TDs give him 14 on the year. He leads the GSC in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and has scored 40 total touchdowns (33 rushing, 7 receiving) for his two-year career at DSU.
“It’s senior day, he had to do something,” Cooley said about Robinson. “He’s a good player. I’m just proud of the offensive line, proud of the defense and proud of everybody.”
DSU quarterback Breck Ruddick had a solid game as well by completing 9-of-14 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushing for 43 yards with a touchdown on 12 carries. LaDarion Peterson rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries, Mario Lanier caught two passes for 75 yards with a touchdown and Vince Sciorrotta was good on all six of his point-after kicks to give him 323 career points to move him second overall on the GSC all-time career scoring list.
On defense for DSU, Landry Tullo recorded 10 tackles including two sacks to lead the Statesmen, followed by David Herrington with nine tackles including 1.5 sacks, Brandon Tillman with nine tackles, Keith Flanigan with six tackles including an interception, Tramond Lofton with three tackles-for-loss including two sacks with a forced fumble and Devontae Wilson with an interception that resulted in a 71 yard return.