Hens win Homecoming thriller over Albany
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 23:10
Special teams were a problem for Delaware for most of its game Saturday against Albany. One extra point was blocked, another was botched when the snap was bobbled and a field goal was missed.
None of that mattered in the end.
With the two teams tied at 30, Hens senior kicker Sean Baner lined up for a 42-yard field goal with two seconds remaining. As the crowd at Delaware Stadium collectively held its breath, Baner sent the kick in between the uprights as time expired, causing the Hens to rush the field in celebration.
The 33-30 win was the first for Delaware on the final play of regulation since 1986. Baner said despite some earlier struggles, his confidence never wavered.
“It’s great knowing that your teammates are relying on you and you can win it for them, give them the satisfaction,” Baner said.
The Hens, coming off a 62-28 loss against Maine last week, entered Saturday’s game at 4-2 overall with a 1-1 CAA mark. The Great Danes, in their first season in the CAA and playing with fewer scholarship individuals than Delaware, sat at 1-5 with an 0-2 conference record prior to Saturday.
Head coach Dave Brock said his team has struggled with steadiness all season, and that was on display at Delaware Stadium in the Homecoming Game.
“In all honesty, I feel like we are—I know I say it all the time—we are as consistently inconsistent, it’s like we practice it,” Brock said. “It’s frustrating, but you have to take the good with the bad.”
The game started off poorly for Delaware, with the offense going three-and-out and Albany then driving for a field goal. The Great Danes’ possession featured two third-down and one fourth-down conversions before the Hens defense stiffened.
Following a first quarter that featured only three points, the second quarter proved to be very back-and-forth. Just over a minute into it, senior running back Andrew Pierce scored on a 6-yard rush to give Delaware a 7-3 lead. However, Albany answered, thanks in part to a fake punt run that netted 34 yards. Albany running back Omar Osbourne then took it into the end zone from 1 yard out.
Delaware responded with a field goal to tie the game at 10-10, and after a Great Danes three-and-out, the Hens took the lead as Pierce rushed for his second touchdown of the game. In a bit of foreshadowing, the ensuing extra point was blocked, making the game 16-10.
With less than a minute remaining, Delaware fumbled the ball away in their own territory. Two plays later, senior defensive back Travis Hawkins stepped in front of a pass and returned it 66 yards to the Albany 3-yard line. With only one second left on the clock, the Hens chose to go for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal. However, the ensuing pass was incomplete, sending the teams into the break with Delaware leading 16-10.
Brock said the decision to go for it was, in retrospect, a mistake made by him wanting to be aggressive and take a possibly insurmountable lead. He said the offense struggled in the early going.
“We had opportunities to take the game over in the first half,” he said. “We had three or four or maybe five three-and-outs or four-and-outs. We gave up a fake punt that that’s the reality of the one score in the first half. So we played a pretty good half of defense.”
In the third, Albany took the lead back following a missed field goal attempt by Baner. As they had earlier, the Hens responded, this time thanks to senior wideout Rob Jones, who took a handoff and rushed 71 yards for touchdown. However, the extra point attempt failed as the snap was bobbled, preventing Baner from even attempting a kick.
With 10:04 remaining in the game, Albany took the lead on a touchdown pass. A two-point conversion failed, and so the Great Danes lead remained just one, 23-22. Seven minutes later, Osbourne scored his third touchdown. Albany then opted to kick the extra point to make the score 30-22, rather than go for two to try and stretch the lead to nine.
Delaware began its next drive needing eight points. Three minutes and two seconds remained, and the Hens would have to go 57 yards and then convert for two to tie the game.
They did. After two passes and two runs, the Hens had the ball at the Albany 20. Junior quarterback Trent Hurley then found Jones in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
“We called the play, we’ve been working on it all week in practice, and the craziest thing happened—I never get it in practice, and it just so happened that the guy ran with [junior wide receiver] Mike Johnson and left me free in the back of the end zone,” Jones said.
Delaware still had to get two to tie, however. The play call was a fade to Johnson in the back corner, and he made the catch. Tie game.
Albany went three-and-out on its next drive, thanks in part to a first-down sack by junior defensive lineman Derrick Saulsberry, and so the Hens got the ball back at their own 37 with 52 seconds and one timeout left.
Just like they did to tie the game minutes earlier, the Hens moved down the field, this time settling at the 25 with two seconds left. From there, Baner kicked it through the uprights, giving Delaware the win.
Delaware finished with 486 yards of offense to Albany’s 388. Pierce scored twice and rushed for 120 yards. He topped 100 yards for the 20th time in his career, two shy of the school record.
The Hens have a bye this Saturday and then travel to Rhode Island.