Delta State Statesmen prepare for D-II showdown

By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal

FLORENCE, Ala. – Delta State and top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth, the combatants in Saturday’s NCAA Division II football championship game, arrived here safely on Wednesday night and hit the stadium turf on Thursday afternoon for their first on-site workouts.
At lunchtime Thursday, the coaches and some of their top players met with the media.
“Division II has it gotten it right,” Minnesota-Duluth head coach Bob Nielson told the gathering. “We’ve got two teams here that have really earned the right to play for the national championship. It’s a great challenge and a great opportunity.”
Nielson’s undefeated Bulldogs will be trying to reclaim the national title they won in their first trip to the D-II title game, in 2008.
Meanwhile Delta State (11-3) – which won the title in its only previous trip to the finals, in 2000 – is the first team to appear in the championship game after failing to be ranked in the final AFCA regular-season poll.
“We started out with a lot of newcomers and we had to find ways to win,” said Statesmen coach Ron Roberts. “After a mid-season slump, we have gotten better and better.”
Delta State enters Saturday’s contest on a five-game winning streak. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. at 14,000-seat Braly Municipal Stadium, and will be telecast on ESPN2.
It’s the 25th anniversary of the D-II game’s first appearance in Florence and the 38th division championship game overall. Tickets are $20.

Contact John L. Pitts at 678-1522 or john.pitts@djournal.com