North Dakota State downs Delaware in dominant fashion
FARGO, N.D. — Playing as far from home Saturday as they ever have, Delaware looked lost in the early going against the country’s best team.
The No. 1-ranked North Dakota State Bison, winners of six of the last seven FCS national championships, dominated both lines of scrimmage en route to a 38-10 victory against the Blue Hens. The raucous Bison crowd of nearly 19,000 inside the FargoDome in Fargo, N.D., made the upset bid even more difficult for the Blue Hens, in the first ever meeting between the two teams.
“This is pretty much the result when you play a bad game against a really good team and today my team played a very poor game,” head coach Danny Rocco said after the loss. “We really didn’t do any of the things we had talked about having to do.”
The Bison jumped out to an early lead, scoring 28 points in the first quarter. Their first two scores came in the opening five minutes of play.
The Bison ended their first drive — a 9-play, 75-yard procession — with an Easton Stick 2-yard touchdown run. On the ensuing drive, linebacker Jabril Cox intercepted Pat Kehoe’s first pass of the game and returned it for a touchdown.
“They got off to a really fast start,” head coach Danny Rocco said. “They really did steal the momentum of the game. They really all but knocked us out there in the first quarter.”
The interception was Kehoe’s first of the season. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Delaware netted just 53 yards of offense in the first half and did not finish a possession in North Dakota State territory until their first drive of the fourth quarter. The Blue Hens passing attack, which had averaged 245 yards per game through the first three weeks of the season, was held to a pedestrian 95 yards. On the ground, Delaware gained just 57 yards on 26 attempts.
“Going down 14-0 quick kind of forces you to play outside the scheme of what you normally do, trying to get back in the game and I think that kind of prohibited us from getting our running game going, which is so vital in our offense,” Kehoe said.
North Dakota State too played out of character in the first half, though to much different results. North Dakota State typically operates a run-first system — the Bison entered the matchup averaging over 300 rushing yards per game and only 114 passing yards per game. Stick, a four-year starter at quarterback, came out firing and kept the Blue Hens off-balanced with a combination of play-action passes, boot legs and option runs.
He completed 17 of 26 passes for 280 passing yards and two touchdowns, all in the first three quarters of action. He also ran in two touchdowns and gained 41 rushing yards.
“They were really well balanced,” linebacker Troy Reeder said. “They threw the ball with accuracy and found some weaknesses that we adjusted to in the second half.”
Delaware outscored North Dakota State 10-3 in the second half. Delaware’s lone touchdown came with 1:57 remaining in the fourth quarter when Malcolm Brown recovered a fumble near the goal line and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.
“The locker room at halftime, I really wanted to come out here in the second half and at least try to win the second half and make sure we competed and fought until the bitter end. I knew that North Dakota State would fight to the end regardless of score, regardless of who was in the game for them.” Rocco said. “I wanted to make sure my team understood the significance of fighting and finishing the game…”
“… That is the one thing we accomplished today.”
Delaware has an open date next week before returning to action on Saturday Oct. 6 at Richmond. Like a season ago, Delaware will enter the open date 2-2.
“If there is any positive it’s that we’ve got the guys to still do something special,” Reeder said. “There’s no question about the 11-18 guys that we play in a game offensively and defensively.
“We have two weeks now to self-evaluate, individually scheme, whatever we do, and get back to playing our style of offense and defense.”