Delaware upsets No. 5 Elon, reignites playoff aspirations
It finally felt like fall on Saturday, when the Delaware Blue Hens took on the Elon Phoenix at Delaware Stadium. A brisk 55 degrees and sunny, it was a perfect day to fill the stands with over 19,200 fans on Family and Parents Weekend. The fans were treated to a near-perfect game as Delaware upset No. 5 Elon in a 28-16 victory.
“We had so much energy in that stadium that it was just joyful for me,” Head Coach Danny Rocco said after the game. “I’m hopeful that it was joyful for our fans because there was excitement and energy and our kids were playing hard. It was a big factor in the game.”
Another factor was a pair of notably absent Phoenix. Running back Malcolm Summers, who entered the game leading the CAA in rushing yards per game (118.4), did not play. Summers practiced all week. After just five pass attempts, quarterback Davis Cheek suffered a knee injury, forcing backup Jalen Greene into action.
Soon after Elon struck first, breaking a slow start by both teams. A 52-yard completion to Cole Taylor set up a Phoenix touchdown run to put Elon up 7-0 with thirty-one seconds left in the quarter.
The second quarter was a little more interesting. A fumble by Delaware quarterback Pat Kehoe was recovered by Elon on the Delaware 23 yard line. The Blue Hen defense was able to hold the Phoenix to a field goal after Elon penalties erased a touchdown and pushed the team back from the goal line. Elon scored just three points off Delaware’s three turnovers, which came on a second Kehoe fumble and an interception off the hands of Joe Walker.
Delaware finally managed to get some air under their wings with just a few minutes left in the half as Kehoe connected with tight end Charles Scarff for a seven yard touchdown pass to cap off a 6-play 53-yard drive with time expiring in the half.
Post-game, Rocco called the first half, which Elon led 10-7, “disappointing,” admitting that during the first half he had “felt this game was too big for this team.”
“This game wasn’t too big for our kids,” he assured the room after the win.
Delaware outscored Elon 21-6 in the second half. The Blue Hens scored two touchdowns in the final 7:05.
In a scoring drive that would last four minutes, the Hens ran a “wildcat” play that swapped Kehoe and Walker in the QB spot, and Walker connected with Gene Coleman for a 37-yard gain. Kehoe connected with Scarff again for a touchdown pass, putting Delaware in the lead 14-10.
“We played a complete game up front…they went to battle, they went to war every single play,” Walker said about Delaware’s ability to balance running plays with passing plays.
The Delaware defense kept Elon out of the endzone once again, though the Phoenix were able to kick another field goal, cutting the lead to one.
Elon returned to the lead after a flag for grabbing the facemask was called on Delaware’s Troy Reeder resulted in a third field goal.
A fourth quarter scoring drive ended in a 23-yard pass to the corner of the endzone, caught by Vinny Papale, jetting the Blue Hens into a solid 21-16 lead.
“Pretty surreal, pretty fun…we needed a spark and I think that’s what helped spark that finish,” Papale said of his touchdown catch.
After three incomplete passes from Elon’s quarterback Jalen Greene, Delaware took the ball back, and Kani Kane went to work. Five out of the six plays were carries by Kane, culminating in a touchdown. The drive put Kane over 100 yards on the day and included the longest rush by Delaware of the day — 32 yards. Another good kick from Raggo, and Delaware would settle at 28, Elon 16.
Several incomplete passes and a sack on Greene by Reeder, who finished the games with 4.5 tackles for a loss and 15 total, the ball returned to Delaware hands, victory in their grasp.
“We were flying,” Reeder said after the game, a proud smirk flickering on his face.
Delaware takes to the road next week to face the Wildcats in New Hampshire. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.