The Blue Hens touched the Delaware Stadium turf for the first time this fall season and delivered with a gritty 27-10 win over St. Francis University. A two-turnover performance by the Delaware defense along with Delaware’s offense finding its groove in the second half helped move Delaware to 2-0 in the early parts of the season.
Here are five thoughts following the home opener.
Nothing Easy Early
St. Francis entered the game after giving up a total of 410 yards on offense — 221 of those coming on the ground. Early on Delaware focused on running the ball with its tailbacks Dejoun Lee and Khory Spruill. The duo touched the ball a total of 15 times in the first half.
The Delaware offense also got tight ends Braden Brose and Bryce De Maille involved, including 22-yard and 39-yard completions to Brose on Delaware’s second and third drive of the game.
That said, the Delaware offense failed to get in the end zone after both drives entered the red zone, and the Hens settled for field goals by Ryan Coe. St. Francis’ defensive unit limited Delaware’s two top wide receivers Thyrick Pitts and Gene Coleman II to two receptions in the first half.
Luckily for Delaware, defensive lineman Artis Hemmingway got pressure on St. Francis quarterback Jyron Russell, which resulted in an interception by linebacker Liam Trainer late in the first half. The turnover resulted in a drive capped off by a Lee rushing touchdown at the goal line and gave Delaware a 13-3 lead at halftime.
More Clean QB Play
For the second straight week, Delaware’s offense pitched a shutout in the turnover category. Quarterback Nolan Henderson finished with a completion percentage of just over 78% to go along with two touchdowns and most notably, no interceptions. Henderson’s completion percentage is an improvement from his week one performance of 48.3%, where Henderson went 14 of 29 for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games, Henderson’s stat totals include 521 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
The St. Francis offense looked flat
The game plan for the Red Flash offense looked fairly clear early on in the game. Utilize the quick and short passing game. While this helped keep St. Francis in the game early, the St. Francis’ passing attack finished the game averaging 6.6 yards per attempt and Quarterback Russell’s longest completion was 20 yards. In comparison, Delaware averaged 11.3 yards per passing attempt, and Henderson’s longest completion was 39 yards.
The lack of true threat in the passing game for St. Francis came as the Red Flash found spurts of success in the rushing attack. A 66-yard rushing touchdown by Russell cut the Delaware lead to 20-10. St. Francis’ next longest run was a nine yard rush by running back Marques DeShields.
Russell rushed for a total of 76 yards. DeShields finished with 11 attempts for 34 yards and averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
Big plays in second half
After missing out on scoring two touchdowns in the red zone in the first half, Delaware’s offense found the end zone on its only red zone opportunity of the third quarter with a one-yard rush by quarterback Anthony Paoletti. A 34-yard catch and run by Lee set up the Blue Hen offense for the drive and highlighted Delaware’s ability to take advantage of big plays in the second half.
The second big play the Hens capitalized on came at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Henderson found Pitts deep down the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. Pitts finished with three receptions for 61 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Big test up next
Delaware’s home win is followed by one of, if not its biggest test of the year next week against Rutgers. Despite preconceived notions about what has been at times a laughable last decade for Rutgers football, the Scarlet Knights are an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team that competes in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation — the Big Ten.
Through two weeks Rutgers is undefeated with a 61-14 win over Temple in its opener, followed by a 17-7 win over Syracuse on Saturday.
The Blue Hens are 13-15-3 all-time against Rutgers since the teams first met in 1901. Delaware’s last win against the Scarlet Knights came in 1971. Rutgers won when the two teams last met in 1973.
The meeting between the teams highlights the third time the Blue Hens will face an FBS team under head coach Danny Rocco. In Rocco’s first season as head coach, Delaware fell to Virginia Tech 27-0.
Delaware last played against an FBS opponent in 2019 when Delaware lost to Pitt in a heartbreaker 17-14.