Hens clobber Rams, now 6-2
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
KINGSTON, R.I.—Dave Brock was not buzzing with excitement over the Delaware football team’s 35-13 victory over Rhode Island Saturday. Despite the Hens having two 100-yard rushers, forcing two turnovers on defense and earning their first road win of the season, the first-year head coach couldn’t help but lament the mistakes that nearly allowed the Rams to crawl back into the contest.
“Disappointed we did not play a clean second half,” Brock said. “We turned the ball over, and there was some situational football that was disappointing.”
With a 28-13 lead late in the third quarter, Hens junior quarterback Trent Hurley’s arm was hit while trying to complete a third-and-11 pass from Delaware’s 21-yard line. Rams defensive back Andre Scott intercepted the ball at the 32-yard line, giving Rhode Island an opportunity to get within one touchdown of the Hens.
But Delaware’s defense wasn’t ready to let the team’s perceived inability to win on the road negate what had been a dominating effort to that point.
After giving up a first down, the Hens were able to force the Rams into a fourth-and-14 from their own 18-yard line. Rhode Island came out in field goal formation but quickly shifted into a shotgun set with backup quarterback Kolt Peavy alone in the backfield.
The snap sailed over Peavy’s head, thwarting the Rams’ comeback hopes and giving Delaware the ball back. After the game, Rams head coach Joe Trainer said he called for the fake field goal because it was a tackle-eligible play that could have caught the Hens off-guard.
“It was the swing of the game right there,” Trainer said. “In hindsight, we probably should have went for it on the fourth-down, but we didn’t.”
Two plays later, junior wide receiver Michael Johnson tip-toed 78 yards down the left sideline on a speed sweep to give Delaware a commanding 22-point lead.
“I didn’t think I went out of bounds,” Johnson said. “Because on the first one I was getting teased a little bit for tripping up and running out of bounds. I just tried to make sure I stayed inside, and, once I broke that first tackle, I just knew it was six points.”
Not only did the run give Johnson the first 100-yard rushing game by a wide receiver in Delaware football history, but it was the first time Johnson had rushed for 100 yards at anytime during his football career.
However, it wasn’t just the Hens’ late-game heroics that spurred the team to victory.
On the first play of the game, the Hens allowed the Rams’ senior return man Mackenzie Elliot to take the opening kick all the way back to the Delaware 16-yard line. Elliot would have made his way to the end zone had Delaware freshman cornerback Roman Tatum not made a touchdown-saving horsecollar tackle. A penalty was called on the tackle, giving Rhode Island the ball at the 8-yard line.
With their backs to their own goal-line, the Hens held strong. On second-and-goal, senior defensive lineman Zach Kerr stripped Rams running back Robbie Delgado of the football. Junior linebacker Patrick Callaway recovered for Delaware, giving the Hens their first possession of the game.
Although Brock said he would have been satisfied with giving up a field goal on the drive, junior linebacker David Mackall, who recorded 14 tackles and an interception in the game, said despite Rhode Island’s field position, the entire defensive unit never resigned to the fact that the Rams were going to come away with the lead.
“Before the game, we all talked about staying strong and mentally tough,” Mackall said. “That was just a result of being mentally tough. Coming out there and getting back ball back for our offense, that’s what we want to do every week.”
Delaware punted on its first drive of the game, but the defense forced the Rams three-and-out, which gave the Hens the ball back on their own 44-yard line. Just four plays later, senior running back Andrew Pierce scored his first of three touchdowns in the game. Pierce added another touchdown before halftime to push the Hens’ lead to 21-6 at the break.
Next week, the Hens will travel to No. 6 Towson with an opportunity to put themselves back into the Top 25 rankings and in a prime position to claim a coveted playoff berth.
“We talk about going 1-0 every week,” Hurley said. “I haven’t looked ahead at all. Each week I try to take as its own challenge. Starting right now, the challenge is Towson.”