Delta State rolls to National Championship
By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 10, 2000
FLORENCE, Ala. The goalposts stayed up and you didn't hear the strains of Queen's "We are the Champions", but nevertheless, that's exactly what the Delta State Statesmen are.
National Champions that is.
The DSU Fightin' Okra turned the Bloomsburg offensive juggernaut into vegetables, with a 63-34 domination of the Huskies to secure the 2000 NCAA Division II National Championship in front of nearly 8,000 fans at Braly Municipal Stadium and a nationwide ESPN audience.
By virtue of Saturday's title game blowout, DSU's only challenge all playoff season came from Catawba in the muddy second round.
Were it not for an interception in the fourth quarter and two drives that ended each half, the Statesmen would probably have scored every time they touched the ball.
As it was, however, the Statesmen only scored nine touchdowns, including hitting paydirt on eight of their first nine possessions.
He may have had no idea just how wrong he was, as each team scored on its first possession. DSU then went to its bag of tricks, pulling off a textbook onsides kick after Billy Dorgan's PAT miss provided the Huskies (12-3) last lead of the day at 7-6.
Bright gave DSU, which ended the season at 14-1, the lead for good when he followed up a highlight reel 35-yard burst with a 7-yarder. The PAT pass to receiver James Grubbs gave them a 14-7 lead.
But Bloomsburg stormed right back behind quarterback Eric Miller who earned the record of most passing yards in an NCAA playoff round with 1,226 and steered the Huskies to tie the game at 14 with a 2-yard pass to Mike Lelko, their second connection of the day.
But DSU's defense showed early that the Huskies were no longer in the Great White North, as they forced two punts sandwiched around a fumble during the next three Bloomsburg series.
As if that wasn't bad enough, DSU's offensive engine purred, and with the aid of the veer option attack and Bright, the Okra offense did everything but huddle, scoring three unanswered TDs in runs by Tanny Flowers, Rico McDonald and Meridian native Jason Franklin.
The latter came on a reverse that faked the entire Bloomsburg defense and gave DSU a 35-14 lead at the break.
Bloomsburg looked like it might threaten a rally of the magnitude of its semifinal game when they attempted and recovered an onsides kick to start the second half.
The Huskies scored off that opportunity with a 16-yard pass from Miller to Darryl Williams to pull to within 35-21, but they simply had no answer for the Statesmen.
Delta State scored 14 more unanswered on runs of 25 and seven by Bright and Flowers, respectively. The latter broke the backs of Bloomsburg, as it came after DSU lined up for its first punt of the day.
The Husky defense finally had their first stop, but an offsides penalty kept the drive alive.
Gary Smith added an 18-yard score for the Statesmen before Bloomsburg added one for pride in the waning minutes.
But BU defensive lineman Brian Sims insisted his team never gave up hope.
McDonald rushed 19 times for 88 yards, breaking the school single-season record of 1,610 set by Tregnel Thomas in 1996. When questioned about it, he said he could care less. "It's all about winning that trophy," he said flatly.
And for the state's best college football team this year, it was a fitting end to the season.
All of them on the podium agreed it was the start of something special.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.