Delaware’s offense starts to get on track
As the open date approaches for first-year Head Coach Danny Rocco, it is time for the team to take a “big step back and assess everything.”
After the first three games, some questions remain about the team and how it will function ahead. The Blue Hens defense has been stout, placing third in the CAA in scoring defense and rushing defense. If there were any questions on either side of the ball, it was whether the offense had the system and pieces to be successful.
“My plan from the very beginning was three weeks into this, we’d take a big step back and assess everything we’re doing with our entire program,” Rocco said. “I think we’re making progress, I think the area of most concern has been our red zone offense, our ability to finish our drives.”
There have been ten times when the Hens were within 35 yards of the end zone, but only walked away with 20 points. Against Cornell, the Blue Hens’ offense fared better in in the red zone, converting on 78 percent of their opportunities. However, twice they settled for field goals and one drive ended in a Joe Walker interception.
There were two big questions among Blue Hens fans when camp broke: who would be Delaware’s starting quarterback and would returning passer Joe Walker and Appalachian State transfer J.P. Caruso be splitting game time? Since starting opening night against Delaware State, Walker has solidified his hold on the starting position. Caruso’s lone snap Saturday was the final knee.
“When we finished up camp we felt that Joe made a push,” Rocco said. “Joe made a push late in camp, I think the support that he got from his teammates as far as being voted captain was something that I think generated some momentum and I really felt like the logical and common sense thing to do was to kind of play that card first and see how it plays out.”
Walker is quietly having his best season yet. In two of their first three games Walker has had two career highs in passing. In their opening game against Del State, Walker passed 13 for 26 with a career-high of 192 yards. Then Walker went on to beat his own record, completing 202 yards against Cornell. Rocco feels that among the strides Walker is making, leadership is becoming a strength.
“To me and for everyone else on the offense, these wouldn’t be my best games as far as what I know I can do and what we know we can do,” Walker said. “So there’s a lot more to see coming from us and a lot of progress to make.”
Among the elements that Rocco will reevaluate in the open week is the vertical passing offense and how to better utilize his personnel.
“I think the passing game has progressed,” senior wide receiver Diante Cherry said. “We’ve shown flashes here and there of who we can be and how great we can be. I think we just need to focus and put it all together so we can be the team we know we can be.”
In his first two games this season Cherry had seven catches for 124 yards and both a receiving and rushing touchdown. On Saturday against Cornell, he was held catchless.
The Blue Hens have yet to see a CAA opponent thus far. However, while the offense has made obvious strides in the season’s early stages, there is still much room for improvement.
“We haven’t seen conference play yet so everything that is really important is out in front of us,” Rocco said. “I’m gonna say in this moment we remain on track. How we perform in our first CAA game will really lead our discussions the rest of the season.”
The Hens open up CAA play against the James Madison Dukes on Sept. 30 at Delaware Stadium.