Delaware football falls to Rhode Island in home opener
It was the word used most often Thursday night after the Blue Hens’ loss to conference bottom-feeder Rhode Island.
Maybe students were excited at the opening of the official tailgating section, The Barn. Perhaps fans raised expectations after Delaware found themselves on the FCS Coaches’ Poll for the first time since 2012. And maybe watching a veteran team with 15 seniors expected to start come together — and look solid — in camp gave people more hope.
But Delaware was unable to hold onto the hype, falling 21-19 to the Rams.
Rhode Island entered the game ranked 12th in the CAA preseason poll and had not won a season opener since 2009.
“We just gave away way too many opportunities,” Head Coach Danny Rocco said. “Defensively we did not make enough big plays … we were not as dynamic as we had been.”
Trailing 21-19 with 3:58 remaining in the game, Kani Kane lost a fumble at the Rhode Island 40-yard line. It was the second fumble Kane lost in the game.
The Blue Hens defense, with two timeouts, did not get the ball back for their offense until there were 16 seconds left on the clock.
“It was more than just us not executing,” linebacker Troy Reeder said. “There was certain stuff that we’d done all camp and done really well that for some reason we went out there and didn’t do tonight.”
Gallery: Rhode Island vs. Delaware (Louis Mason/The Review)
Delaware’s offense got off to a slow start, remaining scoreless until halfway through the second quarter when quarterback Pat Kehoe found tight end Charles Scarff for a 28-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. A 26-yard field goal from kicker Frank Raggo put Delaware ahead 10-7 at halftime.
Their lead — and the excitement — did not last.
Rhode Island scored another touchdown and extra point in the third quarter. Raggo managed to cut the lead in half with a 48-yard field goal three minutes later, only to watch as Rams’ Quarterback JaJuan Lawson delivered a neat pass to tight end Tyler Burke on a broken third-down play, which resulted in a 57-yard touchdown.
Down 21-13 going into the fourth quarter, Kehoe tried to lead his team back from defeat, hitting wide receiver Joe Walker for a touchdown with just under seven minutes to go. The Rams successfully defended Delaware’s two-point conversion attempt, breaking up a fade intended for wide receiver Jamie Jarmon to keep a two-point lead at 21-19.
Kehoe made his first collegiate start, completing 12 of 22 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. A redshirt junior, Kehoe had never thrown a collegiate pass before starting Thursday.
Not a brilliant start, but one he called “a wake up call,” as well as something to learn from.
Another constant Thursday night for Delaware was number seven on both sides of the field. Kane posted his third career game with 100 or more yards rushing. He also gained 47 yards receiving. Defensively, Ray Jones, who also wears number seven, led the team in tackles with seven solo tackles and five assists. It was Jones’ first collegiate start at linebacker, his third position in four seasons. If Thursday’s game was any indication, he will excel there as well.
Rocco said that earlier in the week he had a feeling the game was going to be close. His instincts turned out to be right, though the Blue Hens ended up on the wrong side of the “dog fight.” Rhode Island played their own game, one for which Rocco wanted to “give Rhode Island a lot of credit,” possessing the ball for stretches of time that kept Delaware’s offense sidelined and watching. The Rams won the time of possession battle, 31:07 to 28:57.
Moving forward, Rocco’s message is clear. Everyone will be back tomorrow, ready to work and learn.
They’ll turn their attention now to Lafayette, who visits Delaware Stadium Saturday, September 8 at 3:30 p.m.