Blue Hens take ACC powerhouse Pitt to the wire, but come up short 17-14
The last time Delaware traveled to Heinz Field to play the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, the Blue Hens came out on the losing end of a 62-0 final score. Saturday, Sept. 28, was a much different game for the Blue Hens.
The Blue Hens opened up the game with two drives that ultimately culminated in nothing, but they were able to move the ball through the air against the stout Pitt defense. Delaware’s defense also stepped up huge early with a key fourth down stand inside the Blue Hens own territory.
On the first play of the second quarter the Panthers offense finally found the endzone on a thirty-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver V’Lique Carter, giving Pitt a 7-0 lead.
Throughout most of the second quarter the Blue Hens offense stalled; getting stopped through the air and stuffed on the ground by the Pitt defense. The Delaware defense picked up the offense with an interception by redshirt junior defensive back Tim Poindexter, setting up Delaware into excellent field position. Redshirt quarterback Nolan Henderson capitalized on this, connecting with Gene Coleman II on a seven-yard touchdown pass evening the score.
Pitt would add a field goal at the end of the half making it 10-7 heading into halftime.
After halftime the Blue Hens defense set the offense up in great position again with another turnover forced by Drew Nickles. The offense would score off the turnover on a five-yard touchdown pass to true freshman wide receiver Jourdan Townsend, giving the Blue Hens their first lead of the game.
The rest of the game the Hens struggled to get anything going on offense. A combination of bad field position off punts and not being able to consistently move the ball plagued the Blue Hens.
The final score was 17-14; much more of a close-scrape for Pitt than the trounce they were perhaps expecting.
Head Coach Danny Rocco reflected on this after the game.
“Offensively we had our moments, but [we were] just not consistent enough. Too many short drives. Too many bad field position situations for our defense,” Rocco said.
Entering the fourth quarter the Pitt offense found success in running the football opening up the deep passing game, resulting in a twelve-yard touchdown pass to Taysir Mack. This was all Pitt needed as they stopped the Blue Hens and iced the game on a roughing the kicker penalty committed by Delaware.
“I opted to go and try and block the punt,” Rocco said. “It really ended the game right there.”
Even with the defeat the Blue Hens showed many glimpses of what this team is capable of. Nolan Henderson played well and ended the day completing 14 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game Henderson reflected on the offense’s mentality and belief during the game.
“Even the drives we didn’t score, we [had] decent drives. It kind of got the guys to figure out pretty quick that we can move the ball on [Pitt],” Henderson said.
Even with the loss the Blue Hens have no reason to hang their heads. They battled against a Pitt team that is nationally known and was coming off an emotional win against Central Florida.
The Blue Hens should see this as a building block and something that can only propel them to another playoff berth.
“I’m very proud of our performance, very proud of our toughness and very proud of our resiliency and our character,” Rocco said. Our kids played extremely hard, played with conviction and truly believed we were going to win the football game.”
The Blue Hens travel to take on Elon University in two weeks on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.