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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Commentary: Adjustments Delaware needs to make for homecoming game versus James Madison

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Courtesy of Sarah Boekholder
Delaware will look to stop their two-game skid on Saturday, when they face conference rival James Madison in homecoming at Delaware Stadium.

Staff Reporter

The Delaware Blue Hens (3-3, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)) will host the James Madison Dukes (5-1, 3-1 CAA) for an exciting conference matchup. The Dukes have looked solid this year, while Delaware has hit a rough patch in the past two games. However, Delaware’s coaches and players said that they see the problems they have been facing and hope to fix them up for this game.

Here are some of the adjustments that are crucial for Delaware to make in order to beat James Madison:

The Mistakes

In the Rhode Island game the Blue Hens gave up a punt return touchdown followed by an interception in Rhode Island territory when attempting to come back late.

As for the game against Stony Brook, head coach Danny Rocco noted some of the mistakes that led to their 34-17 loss.

“[Stony Brook] had a 99-yard rush for a touchdown, a strip sack that rolled down inside the one-yard line where they stuffed it in on the next play and we muffed a punt return up there in the wind and the ball rolled into the endzone for a touchdown,” Rocco said in a press conference on Monday.

The players have to take a deep breath and realize that they do not need to be heroes, they only have to do their jobs. 

For example, when punt returner Jourdan Townsend went out there late, with Delaware down by ten, he evidently wanted to make a big play. While this confidence is great to have, if Delaware’s players are able to remain composed and do the little things, more opportunities will present themselves.

Additionally, Delaware needs to be able to hold onto the ball, and protect it late. It is impossible to come back when the Blue Hens are giving up easy points to the other team.

“Those are 21 points right there that they were able to get in the football game that made it a very, very difficult game for us to win,” Rocco said concerning Delaware’s critical flaws.

Take away those 21 points, and it is a whole different ball game.

Converting Late

Playing well in the beginning of the game is one thing, but continuing to play well for the whole 60 minutes is another.

In the third and fourth quarter of the Stony Brook game, Delaware’s defense held the Seawolves to three 3-and-outs in a row, down only three points. Delaware, led by quarterback Zach Gwynn, was not able to put any points on the board after any of these stops.

“He’s gonna have to make plays in the fourth quarter on those last drives to give us some opportunities,” Rocco said of Gwynn.

Jumping into a starting role after the first string quarterback is injured is a tough job for anyone, but Gwynn needs to find his rhythm for the entire game. He has shown multiple bright spots, like his two big touchdown passes to wide receiver Thyrick Pitts against Stony Brook.

Plays like this are exactly what Delaware needs against a strong James Madison defense. If Gwynn can make these types of big plays throughout the entire game, especially late when the game is tight, this team will have a shot at going on a much needed winning streak.

Not Getting Down Early

One thing that has been consistent in Delaware’s three losses is that at halftime they were down. On the other hand, in two of Delaware’s three wins, they had the lead at halftime.

A lead at halftime gives teams momentum, and with Delaware’s injury-plagued team still getting situated to playing a full 60 minutes of solid football, an early lead would be helpful in alleviating pressure.

As for the Blue Hens defense, they have played well all season. They consistently help by making stops to give Delaware a chance to get back into games. Nonetheless, allowing points early hurts. Having a stronger start against the Dukes this Saturday would give some much needed support.

“They have a good group of running backs, more like a three-headed monster in that backfield,” Kedrick Whitehead, defensive back, said.

Knowing this, Delaware has to attempt to stop them, and stop them early to allow for their offense to put them up.

Previewing the Game

James Madison has the momentum going into this game, but if they are able to make some of these adjustments they will have a good chance of taking down the Dukes.

Its mistakes are not news to the Delaware team either. During the pre-game press conferences Delaware’s players and coaches acknowledged what has to be done to win this game. 

Looking at the Dukes, they have a very solid defense, highlighted by their two inside linebackers, Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey and Kelvin Azanama, who make plays all game long. In addition, their offense has looked sharp recently, averaging 38 points per game in their first six games. Delaware must clamp down on James Madison’s offense early and find holes in its defense to move the ball down the field.

Additionally, news emerged that Zach Gwynn suffered an injury at Stony Brook, but Coach Rocco said on Monday that he is optimistic that will be ready to go by Saturday.

Delaware needs a win, and home field advantage can help them to get it.

“We need everybody to show up. We need all the students to show up. We need everybody to want the win just as bad as we want it,” Dejoun Lee, running back, said. “Because at the end of the day, if we all come together and have the energy throughout the entire game I promise we will end up on top.”

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