Delta State brings home national title
OUTTA MY WAY n Delta State quarterback Josh Bright stiff-arms a defender Saturday during the Statesmen's NCAA Division II National Championship victory. Bright ran for three touchdowns. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 10, 2000
FLORENCE, Ala. Cinderella kept on dancing long after the stroke of midnight.
And the long journey for Delta State University and its fans ended with the realization of a dream.
The Delta State University Statesmen won the 2000 NCAA Division II Football National Championship here with a sound 63-34 whipping of the Bloomsburg (Pa.) University Huskies in front of nearly 8,000 fans at Braly Municipal Stadium.
In the wild mob scene that saw fans and players leaping, laughing, crying and hugging, a drenched DSU head coach in only his second year at the school summed up the magical ride that got them to Division II's football nirvana.
The catalyst for DSU was Conerly Trophy winner Josh Bright, who was amazingly passed up in race for the Harlon Hill Trophy n Division II's top honor n which was given out Friday night to Valdosta State's Dusty Bonner.
All Bright did Saturday was run for a game-high 175 yards on 22 carries and score three touchdowns, including a dazzling 35-yard rumble. He passed for 80 yards on 6-of-11 attempts.
Several players from The Meridian Star coverage area had an impact in the contest, the biggest coming from former Meridian High standout Jason Franklin.
With the game still in doubt, Franklin scored a 9-yard touchdown on a reverse that gave Delta State a 35-14 lead. Franklin finished with two catches for 35 yards as well. Former East Mississippi running back Tanny Flowers had six carries for 59 yards.
Delta State broke or tied nine different Division II Championship game and tournament records, including the most points scored in an NCAA football championship game on any level.
Early on, the game looked as if it would be a back and forth shootout, until DSU forced the first Bloomsburg punt of the day with 10:38 remaining in the first quarter and the Statesmen leading 21-14. They scored again following a BU fumble for a 28-14 lead that the built on from there.
With the blowout intact in the fourth quarter, it was party time for the 4,000 or so DSU fans on the visitors' side. Girls with green hair and guys with green chests were in abundance with placards reading such green-blooded phrases as "Let the South show ya'll how its done" and dElta State Plays like No other, with the respective capitalizations forming the familiar sports moniker ESPN.
One thing's for sure everyone associated with the small school from Cleveland in the Mississippi Delta will remember their stint on the Total Sports Network for years to come.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.