Hens falter at Towson; Rocco “very disappointed”
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
A week after a signature win over Richmond –– a win so significant that it bumped Delaware to the FCS STATS Top 25 for the first time since 2014 –– the Blue Hens (5-3) fell flat at Towson, losing to the Tigers (3-5) for the third time in four years.
Towson, who entered Saturday’s game tied for the second-worst record in the CAA, picked up its first conference win of the season and snapped the Blue Hens three-game win streak.
“Disappointed, but it’s really not all that shocking if you understand the league you’re in and you understand the nature of the game and the week to week matchups and the way that these games tend to play out in our league,” Head Coach Danny Rocco said.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Blue Hens had outscored the three opponents they faced with .500 records or worse –– Delaware State, Cornell and William & Mary –– by a mark of 80-7, so the setback against Towson was an unexpected turn for a team that just began to receive national attention.
The loss makes it likely that the Hens will have to win each of their final three games to have a sure shot at the playoffs.
Delaware took a 7-3 lead into halftime and then went up 14-3 in the early stages of the third quarter after a 30-yard touchdown from running back Kareem Williams. Following the touchdown, the Hens punted on three of their final five drives as the offense stalled. The Delaware defense allowed two second half pass touchdowns to Towson quarterback Ryan Stover –– the second of which put Towson on top, 18-17, with 35 seconds remaining in the game.
“I think the one thing, somewhat uncharacteristically in the biggest moments of the game, we did not play up to our standard or our expectations and that’s something we had been doing,” Rocco said in reference to his team’s defensive performance.
The imperfect defensive performance was magnified by a Delaware offense that entered Towson territory a total of seven times, but only three of those drives resulted in points.
The Blue Hens outgained Towson on the ground, 229-117. However, the Hens gained a net total of 35 passing yards, a season low. While Rocco’s team had success in the running game and did not turn the ball over, they struggled mightily in the passing game.
“I don’t think the timing of our passing game is where it needs to be right now,” Rocco said. “I don’t the quarterbacks are developing at the rate at which they should be in terms of understanding the concepts and what we expect them to do with the football. And we’re not protecting as well as we need to.”
Redshirt junior quarterback J.P. Caruso completed six of 15 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Backup Joe Walker, who started the first five games of the season prior to being benched, threw one pass, resulting in a loss of eight yards.
Running back Kani Kane, the transfer who continues to be a pleasant surprise for a backfield that adjusts to the loss of top back Wes Hills, carried 22 times for 113 yards. The big, bruising back has emerged as the go-to option in Rocco’s rushing offense.
“I did think Kani was going to be more of a fullback to be totally honest with you based on the film that I had seen, but at this stage of the process, we thought we’d have another option or two at tailback, so it made more sense in my world to maybe categorize him there, then I could see more immediate value,” Rocco said.
As Delaware prepares for another CAA battle against a Maine team known for their grit and physicality, Kane will match up against a talented back in freshman Josh Mack. Mack leads the FCS in rushing, totalling just under 140 yards per game.
Maine (4-3) extended its winning streak to three games this past weekend with a 23-6 win over William & Mary. Rocco made one trip to Maine in 2014 as Richmond head coach, resulting in a 33-20 loss.
The Blue Hens, who fell out of the Top 25 poll after the loss to Towson, face the Black Bears at 2:00 Saturday in Portland.