They have won both of their road games this season, including last week’s 38-35 win over the Tarleton State Texans at Stephenville, Texas.
Now, Delta State (2-3) has to find a way to make its good fortune on the road carry over into its home schedule.
The Statesmen are currently 0-3 inside the confines of Travis E. Parker Field this year. They will attempt to win their first game at home on Saturday evening when they host the University of West Georgia Wolves (2-3) in Gulf South Conference action.
Statesman head football coach Jamey Chadwell said a home win would be huge at this stage of the year.
“The thing we’re focused on is what do we have to do to win a game at home,” Chadwell said. “Obviously, we’re not doing a good job of that since I’ve been here of winning games at home. We’ve got to find out what we need to do differently as a staff and as a team to make sure we come out and play well here.”
Delta State football players will also be wearing pink helmet stickers as well as special pink wrist bands, gloves and warm-ups donated by the Delta Cotton Belles during the game in honor of Cancer Awareness month. This year also marks the sixth straight year DSU will be hosting “PINK OUT” in honor of Cancer Awareness. Fans wearing an abundance of pink will get in the game for free. The event is a partnership between DSU athletics, the American Cancer Society, the Delta Cotton Belles and DSU Breast Education and Early Detection Program.
Honoring cancer awareness has a special meaning for Chadwell and the rest of the Statesmen.
“I think it’s important,” Chadwell said. “I lost a grandmother to cancer and my wife has two people in her family that have had breast cancer and her mother actually had breast cancer and survived it. I’ve got some players with families that have went through cancer. I think it’s important that you bring awareness to it.
"It seems like every time you turn around, someone is getting cancer. It hits home to people. I’m firmly behind why we do this and encourage it. When you have people go through those things, you need people to help you share experiences,” Chadwell added.
Both DSU and UWG are looking for their first GSC win as DSU is 0-1 in the conference, while West Georgia is 0-2.
Chadwell said the Statesmen are still very much alive for a conference title or postseason berth.
“We still control our destiny if we take care of business, meaning conference and everything,” Chadwell said. “All of our goals that we had preseason wise are still out there. We have a great opportunity this week to put ourselves in a position to reach those goals, but we have to take care of that at home.”
One aspect about the Statesmen’s most recent game that has improved is their ability to battle back late in games. Delta State trailed 28-15 heading into the final quarter. The Statesmen rallied back and outscored the Texans 23-7 in the fourth quarter. Andrew Jones booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired to win the game. The game winning drive was set up by an interception from Kenny Barnes. The game was about as perfect a game as DSU has played all year as the Statesmen committed just eight penalties for 54 yards. The penalties and penalty yardage are both season lows.
“It was an unbelievable fourth quarter with our team,” Chadwell said. “Our guys just really played with a lot of heart and passion for each other and continued to fight. For us to be able to win and the way we won, it was much needed. I believe and our team believes it was a turning point for us, and what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Even though the Statesmen gave up 35 points, the defense had plenty of standouts. Rory Island racked up 13 tackles including a tackle-for-loss in the game, followed by Ixavier Triplett with eight tackles including a tackle-for-loss and C.J. Lester and Diego Lubin with seven tackles including two tackles-for-loss with a sack each. Lester also forced a fumble.
For the year, Triplett has 39 tackles in five games and his average of 7.8 tackles a game is third in the GSC. Island, Lubin and Derrien Covington are tied for fourth in the GSC in sacks with two each, while Lubin currently leads the GSC in tackles-for-loss with 7.5.
Statesman quarterback Trevor Wooden had a superb game against Tarleton as he completed 12-of-18 passes for 223 yards with a TD and no interceptions and rushed for 87 yards with two touchdowns on 21 carries. The game marked the first time that he didn’t throw an interceptions. Jones, in the punting game, averaged 47 yards a punt on five punts with his long being a 62-yarder.
Receiving wide, Lavon Downs and Kevin Jackson have made big catches for DSU.
The Statesmen will be playing a Wolves team that has struggled on defense by giving up a GSC high 28.4 points per game. The Wolves, however, have been solid on offense by scoring 31.4 points a game which is second in the conference.
“They do a lot of things offensively to put your defense in a bind,” Chadwell continued. “Defensively, they’ve switched up a little bit from last year. They used to be a I think more of a three-down package. Now, I they’re a little more of a four-down and bring some different blitzes and different things. They’re a good team.”
The Wolves have used a two-quarterback system with junior Austin Trainor and freshman Dallas Dickey. Trainor has completed 60-of-99 passes for 652 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions, while Dickey has completed 18-of-33 passes for 209 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Trainor will miss Saturday’s game due to an injury suffered in West Georgia’s 42-7 loss at the hands of Valdosta State University last week. Junior wide receiver Bobby Burum has been the team’s leading target at wide receiver by catching 20 passes for 321 yards with two touchdowns.
On defense, junior linebacker Bobby Liggins has racked up a team-high 29 tackles including an interception, and sophomore defensive lineman Amir Mustafaa has recorded 16 tackles including 5.5 tackles-for-loss with 2.5 sacks to spearhead the team.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 6 p.m.