By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
For the second time in two years, Delta State’s football team will play for a berth in the NCAA Division II championship game.
The eighth-ranked Statesmen (11-2) visit sixth-ranked Pittsburg (Kan.) State (11-1) today for a 6:05 p.m. kickoff. The game can be seen at ESPN3.com
Delta is unbeaten in seven games at home this season, while both losses have come on the road.
“We would love to be playing at home, but we are excited either way to be in the semifinals and playing in such a great atmosphere,” said head coach Ron Roberts.
Roberts led his team to the D-II championship game last year, where it lost 20-17 to Minnesota-Duluth. His team is 6-0 against ranked opponents this season.
Pittsburg will be playing its fifth consecutive home game.
“We had kinda thought maybe we would go to Delta,” Gorillas head coach Tim Beck said. “Obviously, we’re elated that we have the opportunity to play here again … when our crowd gets going, they get loud. It’s definitely a boost for our defense.”
The forecast calls for a temperature around 36 degrees at kickoff.
The game presents a significant contrast at quarterback.
Delta State’s Micah Davis has thrown for 3,421 yards and 23 touchdowns. While not a big rushing threat, he has 13 TDs on the ground this season, mainly from short distance.
Pitt State QB Zac Dickey, a hometown product who started his career at Oklahoma State, leads his team in rushing (1,042 yards, 10 TDs) to go with 1,932 yards and 14 TDs passing.
“They are a very physical football team,” Roberts said. “They are a run-oriented team, their quarterback is a great player. They have a great defensive line and two active physical linebackers in the middle. And they probably have one of the most D-II hostile environments in the country.”
Delta and Pittsburg have met one before, a 44-31 win by the Statesmen in the 2005 season-opener in Pittsburg.
Northeast Mississippi players have played a significant role for Delta State this season:
* Senior cornerback Dominique Davenport (Baldwyn) is seventh on the team in tackles (45) and leads the team in interceptions (4) and pass breakups (12).
* Sophomore Richard Freelon (Bruce) is second on the team in rushing (650 yards, 8 TDs). He had the biggest game of his career last weekend, rushing for 130 yards and three TDs in a 29-23 win over North Greenville.
* Junior punter Andrew Jones (Corinth) averages 42.1 per kick without a touchback this season.
* Senior Jacob Sesma (Walnut), a baclup tight end, has just two catches, but both have gone for touchdowns – including one in a playoff victory over Delta State on Nov. 26.
In the other national semifinal, Wayne State (11-3) visits Winston-Salem (13-0) this afternoon. The championship game is next Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala.
In the other semifinal contest, Super Region I champion Winston Salem State (13-0) faces Super Region III champion Wayne State (11-3) on Saturday at 1:05 p.m.