Thursday, September 30, 2010

Delta Devils' goal: to be competitive

PHOTO: MVSU's Oliver Hughes is brought down by Jackson State's Tim Dandridge.

ITTA BENA – Before coming here, Karl Morgan says patience was not one of his strong points.
But after an 0-4 start and being outscored 148-22, the Mississippi Valley State coach said “it’s becoming a strong trait” of his.
“That’s why I didn’t come in saying (winning) will happen overnight,” said Morgan, whose team has scored two touchdowns this season. “…I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I know it will happen.”
Valley’s next chance get their first victory will be Saturday during their homecoming when they face the defending SWAC champion Prairie View A&M Panthers at 2 p.m. It will mark their first “home” game, which will be played 45 miles away at Greenville-Weston High because renovations must be made to Rice-Totten Stadium.
“We want to go anywhere we’re welcome – and Greenville has put out the welcome mat,” Morgan said.
The question asked even more than when will the stadium be renovated is when will the Delta Devils compete with the best of the SWAC?
Besides their 27-9 loss to Alcorn State, Morgan admits that the other three games “weren’t close.”
Morgan said that he didn’t predict a specific number of victories before the season began. But has the team, so far, measured up to his overall expectations?
“No we haven’t – we haven’t come close. Wins and losses, I didn’t put any number on that,” he said. “..We haven’t been real competitive. And I think that’s still a goal that we’re trying to get to.”
There have, however, been several positives worth pointing out. Quarterback Oliver Hughes, who took over the starting position after Alabama native Carl Davis broke his ankle against South Carolina State, has started to catch on. And last week in their loss to Jackson State, receiver Paul Cox had 130 receiving yards and a touchdown – earning him the team’s Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“Each week we’re getting a whole lot better, but its one or two things that are stopping us from being a better team….so we’re trying to correct that,” said Hughes, a Holmes Community College transfer.
Hughes accounted for 171 total yards last week, including 35 yards on the ground. He went 5-of-19 through the air with a touchdown and an interception.
“(Hughes) is getting there. He’s a lot better than he was two weeks ago,” said Morgan. “...I think there’s some positive things happening with him.”
Last week at Jackson State, the Delta Devils had to deal with one of the SWAC’s best newcomers, quarterback Casey Therriault. This week, it doesn’t get any easier as they face Prairie View’s K.J. Black.
The Panthers (1-3, 1-2 SWAC) haven’t lived up the hype, but Morgan said that’s probably because of an injury to Black earlier in the season. With him back, he’s preparing for a well-groomed offense.
“They’re still the defending champions,” said Morgan, “and they’re going to come in with the mindset of winning the seven games they have left.”
Valley’s struggles over the years have brought about questions whether they should consider the move to Division II.
Morgan’s response?
“I think all the coaches here in different sports committed to staying at (Division I) and being successful,” he said.
With the majority of Greenville hotels booked for the weekend, it looks as if the Delta Devils will have a big crowd to cheer them on for the first time this season.
And knowing the crowd is on your side can sometimes play a huge role, said Hughes.
“If you go to somebody’s else’s house, it’s way louder. And you might have some of your fans there, but all of their fans are there,” he said. “It’s a different environment. But it’s just the noise level. We just have to go out there and do our job.”
And as for playing their “home” games at Greenville-Weston?
“We’re going to try to make it as much like home as we can,” said Hughes.

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