Blue Hens second half surge comes up short against Towson, playoff hopes in jeopardy
Managing Sports Editor
With the game on the line, the Blue Hens faced a fourth-and-4 deep in Towson’s territory. Delaware went with a play action, which is a fake run-then-pass, but the tight end missed a block and redshirt sophomore quarterback Nolan Henderson pulled through under heavy pressure. Henderson scrambled free, but he slid inches short of the first down marker, spoiling the Blue Hens’ comeback bid.
Towson ran out the clock and escaped at home with a 31-24 victory.
“I don’t sense we had any choice but to go for it there,” Head Coach Danny Rocco said. “To show up on fourth down and run the power pass is something that we do. We do it a lot and did not get it executed, and that was very disappointing to see.”
Henderson was out the previous two weeks with a concussion after suffering a tough hit in Delaware’s loss against Elon on Oct. 12. After the game, he said that may have been a factor in him sliding on the last offensive play.
“Definitely the emphasis this week was to protect myself,” Henderson said. “Either way I can’t slide there. I kind of lost track of where I had to get to after running around. I got like 15, 20 yards behind the sticks, it felt like forever but I just lost track of where it was and I’ve got to be more mindful of that.”
Towson got on the scoreboard early after a four play, 80-yard drive was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run about seven minutes into the game. The Blue Hens countered with an eight-minute drive, ending with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Henderson to freshman wide receiver Jourdan Townsend.
Towson and Delaware traded another score each, but the Tigers notched in another touchdown and field goal before halftime to go into the break up 24-14.
Delaware came out firing early in the third, with Henderson throwing a 54-yard pass to Townsend after Delaware’s defense forced one of its three fumbles on the day.
Redshirt freshman running back Will Knight cut and found a hole for a 21-yard touchdown run, Delaware forced another fumble on Towson’s next possession, but could not capitalize and ended up punting it away.
Senior kicker Jake Roth added a field goal for Delaware with 11:08 remaining to tie the game at 24-24. Towson would score once more on a two-yard run to go up 31-24 with 4:54 remaining. On Delaware’s last possession, Knight found a hole for 35 yards, but Delaware ended up turning it over on downs, and Towson needed one first down to burn out the clock.
Delaware’s defense gave up 453 total yards, but its offense countered with 415 yards. Henderson threw for 240 yards and a touchdown, but also threw his first career interception. Knight led the ground attack with 96 yards while Henderson had 66, disregarding sacks. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Thyrick Pitts led the receiving core with 88 yards while Townsend added 71.
Towson quarterback Tom Flacco threw for 294 yards and a touchdown with six incomplete passes. Wide receiver Caleb Smith torched the Delaware defense for 200 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Tiger to catch for at least 200 yards since 2016.
Third down conversions were critical for the Towson Tigers, as they completed five of eight.
“Definitely,” sophomore linebacker Drew Nickles said when asked if the team walked away kicking themselves over the conversions. “Every play really. You’re going to watch it on film and think of stuff that you could have done better, so you just have to learn from it.”
Delaware’s defense came up strong in the second half, giving up seven points as opposed to 21 in the first half. There has been a common theme going on throughout the season that this is a second-half team.
“Just executing,” Nickles said when asked what the defense did better in the second half. “First half, we weren’t getting it done but second half we did play better so we just have to play better in the second half.”
Delaware has yet to put together a complete game and they are going to need to give everything they have in their last three games if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“We have to put it together,” Nickles said. “We probably should have done it by now, but we have to do it at some point. We have flashes, definitely, but we have to put it together as a team.”
The Blue Hens look to get back on track when they host Albany next Saturday, Nov. 9.