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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Commentary: Thoughts from Delaware’s loss to Rhode Island

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Courtesy of Sarah Boekholder
After Delaware’s road loss to Rhode Island, Daniel Murphy takes a look at the positives and negatives for the Blue Hens, along with their prospects for the rest of the year.

Staff Reporter

The Delaware Blue Hens (3-2), looking to move up in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rankings with a victory, took the trip to Rhode Island to take on the Rhode Island Rams (5-0). While Delaware started slow, they picked it up in the second half, yet could not pull out the victory, falling 22-15.

Here are some thoughts following Delaware’s loss:

The Quarterback Situation

Quarterback Zach Gwynn threw for 117 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. In a conference game, the three interceptions hurt, especially throwing one into the endzone with 33 seconds left and a chance to tie the game.

Now, the loss was obviously not all Gwynn’s doing. He came into this game as a second year player who has not seen much action, and played his heart out. But, it is extremely evident that quarterback Nolan Henderson is very important for this team’s success.

However, with Henderson out for the rest of the season needing pelvic surgery, this team has to adjust and allow for Gwynn to get comfortable. 

Gwynn showed bright spots, like throwing a 42-yard touchdown to wide receiver Thyrick Pitts in the third quarter to put Delaware back in it. By allowing Gwynn to get comfortable and changing some game plans around Gwynn’s style, the team could be brought back to their winning ways.

The Rushing Game Continues to Impress

Delaware rushed for 186 yards in this game and looked strong with their runs all game long. This rushing corps has impressed all season, and with Henderson out and Gwynn looking to get situated, it is very important for them to continue to rush well.

Dejoun Lee, the reigning CAA Offensive Player of the Year, is evidently the head of this rushing corp. Lee joined the 2,000-yard rushing club at Delaware after his third 100-yard rushing game in a row. He had 19 carries for 115 yards and helped his team to stay in it, especially with his big two point conversion in the fourth quarter.

In addition to Lee, fellow running back Quincy Watson showed his skill on his tough 8-yard touchdown run to put Delaware up 15-12 to start the fourth quarter.

If the running backs continue to play well, it will allow Gwynn to have an easier time to adapt and alleviate some of the pressure on him.

The Good Little Things

Delaware played well as a team, especially in the second half with their comeback attempt. There were many bright spots in this game, despite the tough loss.

First, Delaware was able to convert a decent 46% of their third downs, and impressively converted on both fourth down attempts late to keep them in it. Gwynn displayed ample confidence on fourth down and stepped up to help convert both times, which was fantastic to see from the youngster.

Second, the defense played well, especially in the red zone, keeping the Rams to field goals even when it looked like all the momentum was with Rhode Island. On top of this, defensive back Amonte’ Strothers had a nice interception, and the team was able to block one of Rhode Island’s field goals to lead to the fourth quarter touchdown.

When it came down to crucial moments, the defense played well, which is a great sign for this team.

The Bad Little Things

Evidently the three interceptions are what most people are going to look at in this game when looking at the box score, but there were many little things that had just as much of an effect on this game’s outcome.

First off, Delaware suffered two fumble losses that were luckily recovered. However, they need to work on securing the ball because recovered fumbles often led to tough situations for the offense.

Second, Delaware gave up conversions on 53% of the third downs in this game. If this number can be decreased to below 50%, it will be huge for Delaware to get back into games. Giving up these third downs often led the Rams to be able to go and kick a field goal. Stopping teams early and often will help lead this team to victory.

Third, this team needs to both start strong and finish strong. Delaware could not seem to get on the board for the whole first half and missed a field goal, leading them to need to claw their way back in the second half. While they almost pulled it out, a strong start would have helped to alleviate some of the pressure down the stretch.

Toward the end, giving up a punt block touchdown with 3:46 left in the game to put the Rams up by a touchdown, followed by Gwynn’s interception with 0:33 left, was a tough blow. It is going to be very important to see how well this team can clutch up in crunch time going forward.

Up Next

Following this game Delaware dropped to fifth in the conference and needs a win next week to keep itself in contention.

The Blue Hens travel to Stony Brook to take on the Seawolves (1-5) this Saturday, Oct. 16, at 3:30 p.m. 

Fortunately, Stony Brook has struggled in conference play this season.

The last time Delaware took on Stony Brook was March 13 in which Delaware dominated them 31-3. Delaware has a chance to do this again and get back on track with a win against the Seawolves.

If the Blue Hens can adjust to their new quarterback in Gwynn and fix the “bad little things,” this team will be tough to beat going forward.

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