By Terence Thomas
College Sporting News
Listening to both coaches teleconference calls, both expressed how they like the new playoff format, and the time between the semi final games and the National Championship games in order to rest their players and give family and fans an opportunity to make travel plans. After surviving an 11 game regular season and three grueling playoff games, a three week rest is the least the NCAA could have done for the two participants in the National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.
This is the first time the FCS National Championship game is being held in January, and on the eve of the FBS Championship game. As the game is being aired on ESPN2, it should provide a lot of attention to FCS football and to the University of Delaware and Eastern Washington University football teams. With these two teams you have your classic “EAST vs. WEST” matchup (2,537 miles separates the two schools), two high powered offenses, Delaware leads all of FCS in scoring defense, and Eastern Washington has a “Buck Buchanan” nominee of their own, and both have question marks on special teams. The early forecast calls for “Sunny, high in the low 60’s”.
ABOUT THE TEAMS:
Delaware was ranked 5th in the Sports Network poll as well as the AFCA/FCS Coach’s poll, and seeded third in the FCS playoffs. Eastern Washington finished the regular season ranked first in the same polls and seeded 5th in the playoffs.
Delaware head coach, K.C. Keeler is in his 9th year at Delaware (74-41, .643); 18th season overall (162-62-1, .722), competing in his 8th National Championship game (5 in NCAA III/ 3 in NCAA I FCS), has a 42-32 playoff record (.567), and is a two-time Maxwell Club Tri-State Coach of the Year recipient. Coach Keeler led Delaware to a National Championship title in 2003, and was the runner up in 2007. Coach Keeler was a standout linebacker during Delaware’s NCAA Division II national title team under his predecessor, Tubby Raymond in 1979. Coach Keeler has been named one of five finalist for the 2010 Liberty Mutual coach of the year award. At Delaware, Coach Keeler is 11-2 in the FCS playoffs.
Eastern Washington head coach, Beau Baldwin is in his third season with the Eagles. Baldwin came over from Central Washington and has a record of 26-11 in his three seasons. Prior to his stint with Central Washington, Coach Baldwin served as the Quarterback’s coach with Eastern Washington. Coach Baldwin is 10-6-1 in playoff games he has coached in at the FCS, NCAA Division II, and NAIA levels. Coach Baldwin is finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the year award.
As I previously mentioned, Delaware’s defense ranks no. 1 in the nation among all NCAA Division 1 teams (FCS/FBS) in scoring defense, allowing 11.5 points per game. Delaware ranks fifth in FCS in total defense (1ST CAA), allowing 277.43 yards per game. The Blue Hens are 15th in FCS (2nd CAA) in rush defense allowing 111 yards per game, and 19th in pass defense (2ND CAA) allowing 166.43 yards per game. In pass efficiency defense, the Blue Hens rank eighth (1ST CAA) with a 98.64 rating. On offense, Delaware ranks 20th in FCS in total offense (2ND CAA), with 400.71 per game. Delaware is 29th in rushing offense (2ND CAA, 183.50), and 41st in passing offense (3RD CAA, 217.21). In scoring offense, Delaware ranks 36th in FCS (2ND CAA) at 28.80 points per game. The Blue Hens are fourth in pass efficiency offense (1ST CAA) with a 151.69 rating. In the playoffs, the Blue Hens have outscored their opponents by an average of 28.33 to 11.
Individually, Delaware QB, Pat Devlin (Downingtown, Pa) is 34th in the nation in total offense (225 yards per game) and third in pass efficiency (155.37). Devlin has completed 239 of 350 passes for 2,812 yards, and has 22 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Andrew Pierce (Bridgeton, NJ) is 15th in the nation in rushing as he’s carried the ball 301 times, for 1,513 yards, 13 touchdowns, for an average of 108 yards per game.
One of the quietest surprises and best kept secret for the Blue Hens success this year is the play of their offensive line. As you can see from the above stats, that the Blue Hens are either first or second on offense in key statistical fields and this is due in large part to the play of their offensive line. Devlin and Pierce are very much deserving of their praise, but they are the recipients of the hard work that’s done up front. Coach Keeler stated that this group is made up of four juniors and one senior which bode well for the Blue Hens in 2011.
Delaware has ten players remaining from the team that played in the 2007 National Championship game. Of the ten, seven play on defense, and it’s the Blue Hens defense that has been the constant and dominant force all season. The Delaware secondary is physical, and can play press coverage as well as drop back in zone. This group will be tested by the Eastern Washington passing game, but these corners and safeties can cover downfield and are sure tacklers. The linebackers are active, gap sound, and like the DB’s, are good tacklers. The Blue Hens have five to six down linemen to play four positions in their 4-3 defense. The Eagles with their star running back, Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Ca.) would find it tough to run against this unrelenting Blue Hen defense. The Eagles will hope their freshman running back, Mario Brown (Berkeley, Ca.), can match the success he had against Villanova.
Eastern Washington was 12th in FCS (3RD BSC) in scoring offense (32.29), 19th in total offense (5th in BSC, 402.7 ypg), 45th in rushing offense (4th BSC, 165.43 ypg), 27th in pass offense (3rd BSC, 236.64 ypg), 30th in pass efficiency offense (3rd BSC, 133.83). On defense, the Eagles are 64th in scoring defense (2nd BSC, 25.36 ppg), 86th in total defense (4th in BSC, 376.14 ypg), 41st in rushing defense (3rd BSC, 135.50 ypg), 105th in pass defense (6th in BSC, 240.64 ypg), 27th in pass efficiency defense (2nd BSC, 113.12). In the playoffs, the Eagles outscored their opponents by an average of 38.66 to 26.33. The Eagles have also given up a return on a kickoff in each of their last two games.
Individually, the Eagles are led by QB, Bo Levi Mitchell (Katy, Tx) who was 28th in the country in total offense. Mitchell had 3,194 passing yards and averaged 231.79 ypg. Jones was second in the country in rushing with an 145.17 ypg average. The Eagles will look to Brown to fill that void. On defense, the Eagles are led by Senior LB, J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wa.). Sherritt is a ballhawk and the emotional leader of the EWU defense. Sherritt leads the squad and is 10th in the country with 158 tackles, and his 13.5 tackles for loss are the best on the team as well.
In comparing Mitchell and Devlin, Coach Baldwin thought both QB’s were very similar, but Mitchell likes to go downfield a little more than Devlin. Coach Baldwin will also try and have his team win the turnover battle as his Eagles are first in the country in interceptions (25), and are 14-0 in the last two years when they’ve won the turnover margin. The Eagles line up in a 4-3 defensively, and their defensive line averages 6’3, 265, but the Eagles have two run stuffers on the defensive interior lines in LT, Tyler Jolly (Nine Mile Falls, Wa.), 6’3, 285, and RT, Renard Williams (Port Orchard, Wa.), 6’2, 300.
These two along with Sherritt will look to wreak havoc for the Blue Hen rushing attack.
It is this writer’s opinion that the Blue Hen defense will be able to slow down the Eagles offense, and the passing game of the Blue Hens will see them win their second National Championship in seven years. Blue Hens 27 Eagles 17.
Thanks to the Delaware Media Department for furnishing the below pictures of the Blue Hens send off from the University of Delaware to Frisco, Texas.
As always you can email your thoughts and comments to CAATODAY@YAHOO.COM This is the CAA TODAY signing off.