It feels like the college football season just started yesterday, but unfortunately, that’s not the case as Mississippi’s Division II and Division III teams hit the halfway mark of the regular season.
For Delta State, the season has been a whirlwind that has included brawls, battles, and of course a lot of wins. Here’s what we know so far about the Statesmen.
Delta State profile
Current record: 5-0 (3-0 GSC)
Record this time last year: 5-0 (2-0 GSC)
D2football.com ranking: No. 6
AFCA Coaches’ ranking: No. 8
Next game: at No. 25/19 Valdosta State
Three things to know about the Statesmen
Patrick Shegog is even better in 2023
Star quarterback Patrick Shegog has so far exceeded all expectations during his sixth season in Cleveland. Through five games, the South Panola alum has thrown for 1,190 yards and rushed for an additional 324 yards. His 21 total touchdowns rank him at No. 1 in the nation for points responsible for. Another sticking point in Shegog’s stat line is that he has accounted for zero interceptions. He has not thrown to the other team since Nov. 26, 2022.
As for the award talk that’s been making the rounds on social media, forget the Conerly Trophy. If he keeps playing like this, Shegog deserves to be in the conversation for the Harlon Hill Trophy given out annually to the top player in DII.
The defense has stepped up
Before the season, head coach Todd Cooley was ready to see what his defense could do now that everyone was a year older and acclimated to a newer system. This time last year, 10 of 11 guys were in their first seasons as starters at Delta State as a last-minute defensive coordinator shake-up resulted in the unit moving to a 4-3 front.
Through five games, the Statesmen are allowing 16.4 points per game and are No. 2 in the Gulf South Conference in total defense. They are letting up 314.2 yards per game and have forced at least one turnover each week. They will have a big test in front of them when they go up against the conference’s top offense this Saturday.
Second half of the season will be make-it-or-break-it
And speaking of tests, Delta State will have plenty during the second half of the season. Obviously, the Statesmen can’t control how good everyone else is, but it’s no secret that the next five games are going to be more difficult than the first five.
Teams that Delta State has played so far have a combined record of 4-20 at this point in the year compared to a 15-8 record of the next five opponents. The gauntlet will begin this weekend against a ranked Valdosta State before coming back to Cleveland to play a sneaky North Greenville team. The Statesmen will then host No. 7/6 West Florida in what might be the biggest game of the regular season. They will close the year out with games against West Georgia on the road and Mississippi College at home.
Delta State is undoubtedly a playoff-caliber team with the ability to go farther than the second round. However, staying healthy and making it through the next five games mostly unscathed will be vital to that happening.