Blue Hens look to their rivalry game against Villanova to secure playoff berth
Managing Sports Editor
Following its crushing blow at Stony Brook, Delaware enters the final week of the regular season with a lot on the line.
Head Coach Danny Rocco calls eight “the magic number,” meaning to basically secure a spot in the playoffs, a team needs eight wins. Although seven could get a team there, eight is a near guarantee.
At 7-3 overall and 5-2 in CAA play, the Blue Hens battle against the Wildcats hangs in the balance.
Although Villanova is not having its best season (4-6 overall and 1-6 in the CAA), previous matchups against Delaware and Villanova have proven that records mean close to nothing and anything can happen.
“I think for rivalry games, there’s three things to me that are somewhat relevant that substantiate it,” Rocco said. “The first is there has to be some element of history. So for there to be an element of history, creates a thought that this has the chance to be a rivalry game, there’s some history to it, there’s a lot of people who are interested in it.”
The Blue Hens and the Wildcats have more than just some history. This will be Delaware’s 52nd time playing against Villanova. In more recent history, Villanova has won 11 of the last 12 games against Delaware.
Last season, the Wildcats were the team who shut the door to the playoffs on the Blue Hens. The position Delaware is in right now is oddly identical to where the team was in 2017. Last season, the Blue Hens were also 7-3 when they traveled to their last game — against Villanova — and the Wildcats cut the Blue Hens season short with a 28-7 win.
“Everybody gets it [the rivalry],” senior linebacker Troy Reeder said. “I think another thing that’s kind of unique is Villanova every year, it’s the rivalry. But we go through week to week rivalries. So I think we’ve had some practice with that kind of stuff throughout the year and we’re kind of taking it like any other big CAA game.”
Delaware’s game against Villanova evokes even more emotion as it’s also Senior Day. Delaware could have as many as eight players starting on defense and seven on offense — needless to say, a large veteran class, and for many of these players, their last chance to make it to the playoffs in their college experience.
“I’ve always felt that it’s one of the biggest predictors of success over the years to have a senior led team,” Rocco said. “I’ve always been very much a coach that has wanted to honor and recognize our seniors for their commitment and their time invested. Maybe it’s kind of a right of passage or something where you do feel like there’s kind of a point in time where that should matter, that we have that many veteran players that are taking the field, here at home, in this game, with a lot on the line and that they should play with poise and confidence.”
Starting quarterback Pat Kehoe threw for 103 yards and zero touchdowns last Saturday against Stony Brook, less than what Delaware’s seen he can do, like in their game against Towson where he threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns.
“For all the reasons that went into making that decision [to make Kehoe quarterback] in August, the biggest one was just his ability to lead, his ability to be front and center and play with poise and confidence and have that attitude,” Rocco said. “And that was lacking a little bit Saturday for a lot of different reasons so I think that is what I want to see from Pat. And whether we’re running the ball, or throwing it, or on defense or whatever we’re doing, be that guy. That’s something that he can do very well.”
Delaware will take on Villanova Saturday, Nov. 17 with kickoff at 12 p.m.
“You want to just continue to extend the season as far as you can,” Reeder said. “And we can make that happen by winning Saturday. So winning Saturday is the beginning of what we would like to accomplish, it’s what a lot of people envisioned when they chose Delaware.”