Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Underdog: DSU shines under the microsope

CLEVELAND — Each week during the Division II playoffs, Delta State hasn’t been the most popular pick amongst football fans.
But each week they’ve proved critics wrong.
In the second round, they revenged a regular season loss to Gulf South Conference rival North Alabama before dismantling previously-undefeated Albany State in the quarterfinals and one-loss Shepherd last week in the semifinals.
Even after winning three playoff games by a margin of 104-48, DSU is not the favorite in Saturday’s national championship game against undefeated Minnesota-Duluth.
And that’s fine, said DSU coach Ron Roberts.
“I know in most eyes we’re the underdog — and I don’t think we would want it any other way. That’s fine with us,” he said. “We’re obviously going to have earn our respect.”
With a host of new players on both sides of the ball, expectations weren’t high for a Statesmen team that finished 5-5 in 2009. But DSU players are hoping history repeats itself Saturday, being that the last DSU team to win a national title — in 2000 — weren’t the most popular bunch around either.
“Pretty much like us, they weren’t even picked to win the Gulf South (Conference),” said DSU defensive lineman Matt Melton....”If I’m not mistaken, they were picked fifth...”
Now the Statesmen only need to pull off one more upset to earn their second-ever national title. But they’ll have to bring their A-game against a Minnesota-Duluth team who won the title in 2008, said Roberts. The Bulldogs (13-0) scored over 40 points in all but one game during the regular season.
“No question, they’re the best football (we’ll) play this year,” he said.
“(But) we’re not going to blink. (They’re) not going to scare us,” Roberts added.
Melton said his focus isn’t on the No.1 ranked Bulldogs. His mindset is on the Statesmen.
“At the end of the day, it’s about how hard we wanna work or how hard we play. It’s not necessarily too much about what they do or what they’ve done — it’s all on us,” said the Cleveland native.
Roberts said he’s heard the chatter that “we don’t have a chance....(and) they’re going to blow us out.” And as for Minnesota-Duluth’s No. 1 ranking in the AFCA Poll — “The only poll that matters is the one at the end of the game,” he added.
Roberts said he has received several calls from players on the 2000 national championship team, and a lot of them will be at the game Saturday.
Melton, meanwhile, wants to end his collegiate career the same way the seniors of 2000 did — as national champions.
“What would be better than us holding a trophy next to (their championship picture)...,” said Melton. “It would be nice to have our name up there too.”

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