Hills runs wild as Blue Hens dominate Del State to open season
— The first drive of the 2016 season was a methodical one for the University of Delaware football team.
The Blue Hens marched down field on a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive to find the end zone less than five minutes into the game. Delaware State’s second offensive play of the night was an interception by UD defensive end John Nassib, and 11 plays later, the Hens were in the end zone again.
The onslaught was only beginning. Delaware dominated its instate rival 56-14 in front of 17,835 fans at Delaware Stadium – the program’s 300th all-time win at its home field.
“We ran the ball with power and authority like I felt we could and would and it set the tone for the game,” coach Dave Brock said. “What I saw was what I’ve seen in training camp translating to the game. I’ve seen it all of training camp – I wasn’t surprised by what I saw tonight, but to see it in a game and to have it translate into this stadium and under the lights, that’s something that we all needed to see.”
Junior running back Wes Hills led a rushing attack that gained 395 yards on the ground, the most in Brock’s four-year tenure and the program’s most since 2000. Hills gained 212 yards himself on just 19 carries, averaging better than 11 yards per rush. He scored a pair of first-half touchdowns – a 13-yard score to bring the Hens’ lead to 21-0 with 8:19 in the half
and 59-yard bolt to end zone less than four minutes later. Hills’ 59yard score came on a direct snap one play after wide receiver Jamie Jarmon dropped a sure touchdown on a beautifully thrown pass from sophomore quarterback Joe Walker.
Hills missed last season with a broken foot.
“That was a year’s worth of frustration out there,” he said. “Delaware football is back. There’s no more talk, no more words, we wanted to go out there and show with action. Actions speak louder than words.”
Walker, who struggled as a freshman, completed six of nine passes for 66 yards. He completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Diante Cherry nearly six minutes into the third quarter that brought the score to 42-0. Cherry caught the pass despite being closely guarded and managed to tap his foot inbounds before falling to the turf. Walker threw one touchdown pass all of last season.
Walker also picked up a one-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter.
Running back Jalen Randolph scored twice – a two-yard touchdown for the game’s first points and one from four yards out of halftime that was set up by a 44yard carry by Hills.
Delaware’s defense held the Hornets to 184 total yards, including just 35 on the ground. The Hens intercepted four passes and generated six turnovers.
Junior linebacker Anthony Jackson picked off two of those throws.
“In the defensive room, we preach about blood in the water: Play like piranhas,” Jackson said. “That’s what we did tonight and it’s just a beautiful thing to see it unfold.”
Two key transfers made their impact felt in a big way in their first games in a Delaware uniform on consecutive plays. Tight end and Rutgers transfer Charles Scarff caught two passes, including a 10-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Blake Rankin on the final play of the third quarter. Rankin also transferred to Delaware from Rutgers two years earlier.
Penn State transfer and Delaware native Troy Reeder then picked off a pass on the first play of the fourth period and returned it 13 yards for a defensive touchdown.
“[I was] thrilled with how they played, but certainly not surprised,” Brock said of Scarff and Reeder. “They’ve practiced that way all of training camp.”
The Blue Hens’ 56 points were the most since they put up 59 with Joe Flacco under center in 2007. Ironically, Delaware lost that game.
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Anthony Jackson (11) celebrates one of his two interceptions on the night.