This Time, Defense Is The Difference For Delaware
In a series known for its offensive fireworks, Delaware uses defense and clutch quarterback play from Pat Devlin to beat New Hampshire, 16-3, in the FCS quaterfinals
By Chuck Burton
College Sporting News
NEWARK, De. — Current Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly, who has guided his Ducks to the BCS title game, was in attendance in frigid Newark, Delaware this weekend to watch New Hampshire take on the Blue Hens in a do-or-die quarterfinal matchup.
No doubt Wildcat head coach Sean McDonnell, Kelly's boss for more than a decade before he went to Eugene, Oregon, hoped his presence would help put up a lot of points for the Wildcats.
As assistant coach for New Hampshire, Kelly was on the sidelines the last time the Wildcats beat Delaware at Tubby Raymond Field, a 52-49 shootout in 2006.
The quarterfinal match would be far from a shootout, though, as Delaware's defense took advantage of New Hampshire penalties and their banged-up offense to smother the Wildcats in a 16-3 victory.
"It was a very tough loss," said McDonnell.
"Delaware got stronger as the game went on. We played hard, but we hurt ourselves with so many penalties and just didnít do things offensively to be successful."
New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman, playing in his final game as a senior, was clearly not 100%, but early on made some big plays on their second drive of the game.
Not looking at all like a player that sat out last weekend to injury, 35 yards of rushing set up a key first downs in Delaware territory.
But on first and goal at the 10 yard line, three straight rushing stops — including one by linebacker Paul Worrilow on Toman on third down — led to a New Hampshire field goal that would ultimately be the end of Wildcat scoring for the rest of the evening.
Many of New Hampshire's drives were made tougher due to their own errors. Five false start penalties meant that the Wildcats were frequently needing to get more yardage to move the chains all night.
"We just kept getting ourselves in bad situations," Toman said after the game. "Delaware has a great defense, but when we were in those bad situations, they were able to just tee off on us."
Those penalties helped Delaware's hard-hitting defense to really go after Toman, with the Blue Hen defense getting six tackles for loss including three sacks, and ultimately wear them down.
"You get in a game like this, in the playoffs, you have to play much cleaner than we did tonight to win the football game," McDonnell said. "And we've got to play a little bit better, on the both sides of the football, tackling and blocking."
Delaware's hard-hitting defense, the top team in the country in terms of points allowed, couldn't have been more pleased with a 3-3 score going into halftime.
"At halftime, we were excited about the way things were going and our kids felt very confident we could go out and get this thing and we did," an excited K.C. Keeler said after the game. "All week long we talked about managing the moment and tonight we did a good job of that. Our defense really played lights out against an awesome offense."
Even the fact that Delaware was missing their defensive leader, linebacker Matt Marcorelle, due to an injury sustained in pre-game warm-ups didn't seem to slow them down.
"When I first heard that he wasn't going, I was definitely disappointed," said Delaware cornerback Anthony Walters. "Matt's a talented player and he's also really smart. Mentally, missing him seemed like it would be a bit of a problem. But we had guys who came in and didn't miss a beat. And that really helped a lot."
Linebacker Benard Makumbi played in Marcorelle's place, and had a great game as well. He tied for the team lead with six tackles, and he also got a key sack in the third quarter right before Delaware's go-ahead touchdown drive.
Delaware's superstar quarterback, Pat Devlin, started the game slowly but made some great second-half adjustments as the Blue Hens methodically picked apart the Wildcat secondary.
He would go 4-for-4 on the go-ahead drive after the sack, including a beautiful pass down the left side to wideout Nijha White, which the receiver snagged and wrapped the ball around the end zone pylon for the first score of the game.
"We just had to make that big play there," Keeler said. "Pat found Nihja on a corner route. It was a perfect pass and Nihja, Mr. Speed, got into the end zone."
And just before the beginning of the fourth quarter, he would go an effective 6 for 7, dissecting the worn-down Wildcat defense and ending with a 9 yard touchdown pass.
Wideout Mark Schenauer must have been the very last read for Devlin as he ran through target number one, number two, number three - but ultimately found him with a rifle in the end zone down the middle with a beautiful throw.
Devlin would end the evening with an efficient 27 for 38 evening passing the football, for 261 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
His patience in the pocket really extended drives for the Blue Hens and ultimately allowed Delaware to overwhelm the Wildcats physically.
"I thought that Delaware grew stronger as the game went along," Wildcat coach Sean McDonnell said. "Very impressed, in person, with Pat Devlin, the plays he made with the football, the way he located it."
"We don't have any superstars except for maybe number 17 (Devlin)," Keeler said.
Thanks to a smpothering defensive effort — and number 17 — Delaware will be hosting either Wofford of Georgia Southern next weekend.