BY KONNER METZ
Managing Sports Editor
Eleven offensive starters took the field at Rhode Island for the Blue Hens, with a respectable 587 total yards accrued in the season’s first two games.
Though the two wins may not have been in dominant or blowout fashion, victories over the FBS-level Naval Academy and in-state rival Delaware State were noteworthy themselves.
An opening drive against the Rams, however, ended in a turnover on a fourth down attempt in Rhode Island territory. A staple of first-year head coach Ryan Carty’s philosophy – aggressive game management – sent the offensive unit back to the sideline.
Through two games and one drive, that mentality was not producing eye-popping results in the box score. That changed soon enough.
Delaware’s next five offensive drives resulted in touchdowns – including four via the arm of veteran quarterback Nolan Henderson. It was the offensive explosion the team and Hens fans alike had been waiting for ever since the team opened their season at the Navy Midshipmen.
At the end of the day, a 42-21 win that felt more like a 40-point blowout tallied a whopping 610 yards. The dividends of an offseason’s worth of work and implementing a new, spread offense finally paid off not just in the win column, but to the eye test as well.
Henderson had a career day – throwing for 379 yards and four touchdowns on 29-of-34 efficiency. His first half performance notched the second-most yards passing by a Blue Hen in a half, only trailing a decades-old Matt Nagy performance.
Just one week later, this past Saturday, Henderson set another career record with five touchdowns. He threw 30-for-43 with 296 yards in the 35-3 triumph.
While Henderson received much of the well-earned praise, a true characteristic of Carty’s offensive approach was on full display in the Rhode Island game two weeks ago. Henderson was dishing to not just one or two receivers, but an entire cohort of pass-catchers.
Ten players caught at least one pass from Henderson. Veteran Jourdan Townsend had a career day with 109 yards and two scores. Brett Buckman was involved often and early, hauling in six receptions for 76 yards.
Thyrick Pitts had one of his more modest days, with 65 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Braden Brose secured his third touchdown of the season after two in the home opener versus Delaware State.
Hampton’s defense was subject to much of the same Saturday. Twelve Blue Hens pulled in at least one reception, with Pitts finding the endzone three times and surpassing 2,000 career receiving yards.
But even as Carty brings his concepts and schemes from his offensive coaching and play calling days at both New Hampshire and Sam Houston State, nothing has stopped him from best utilizing the roster as he sees fit.
Tight ends Brose, Bryce de Maille and Luke Frederick have all had heavy involvement, even if the position group was not as prominent in Sam Houston State’s offense.
With a muddled running back group of talented seniors and younger players, Carty has been comfortable allowing all four to rotate and play roles in the running game and passing game – whether that is pass blocking or route running.
In the lead up to the season, Carty had no qualms with shifting some of his ideas and schemes to fit the talent he inherited as an incoming head coach.
Criticism may come for his startling fourth-down decisions, or opting to go pass-heavy in goal-line situations. But Carty and the new-look Blue Hens offense are unapologetically aggressive – and their recent stretch is justifying that mentality.
Henderson became the first Delaware quarterback to throw nine touchdowns in a two-game span with his last two performances. Over 1,000 yards have been gained by the offense, and the defense has been no slouch either, allowing an average of just 266 yards gained per game.
Only Rhode Island has put up multiple touchdowns on the experienced Hens defense, led by coordinator Manny Rojas. A player-favorite coach, Rojas was retained despite Carty rebuilding much of the program’s staff to fit his vision – in one of the most important, but underrated, decisions of his first months in Newark as head coach.
While Rojas’ defense stole the spotlight for the first two weeks, it is now the Delaware offense garnering attention for two eruptions on the scoreboard. A clear message has been sent to fellow Colonial Athletic Association teams: the Blue Hens offense might be the toughest out in the entire league.