Delaware earns up­set win over No. 10 Tow­son

Come­back vic­tory de­liv­ers Blue Hens 2nd win over ranked op­po­nent this sea­son

Newark Post - - SPORTS - By ADRIAN MARTIN

The name Flacco used to send Delaware Sta­dium into a frenzy once upon a time, but on Satur­day, it nearly si­lenced the crowd.

Down 15 points half­way through the third quar­ter, the Blue Hens mounted a fu­ri­ous come­back and came away with a 40-36 home­com­ing vic­tory over a Tow­son Tigers team that featured Tom Flacco, the younger brother of the Bal­ti­more Ravens’ Joe Flacco, at quar­ter­back.

“I’m re­ally proud of how our team fought be­cause we didn’t do any­thing right in the first half,” Blue Hen head coach Danny Rocco said. “We had guys in good po­si­tion and we just couldn’t make a play, and they were beat­ing us to the ball. At half­time, I took a hard stance and drew a line in the dirt. I said we’re un­der­achiev­ing and this is not who we are.”

No. 21 Delaware (6-2, 4-1) won its fourth­straight game and handed the 10th-ranked Tigers their first loss against a Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion op­po­nent this sea­son. Tow­son was in the driver’s seat with a 2813 lead, but the Blue Hens scored 20 unan­swered to take their first lead of the game, 33-28, with 8:17 left in the fourth.

Flacco and com­pany then drained more than six min­utes off the clock with a 13-play, 70-yard drive to the end zone, which in­cluded a fourth-down con­ver­sion in­side the red zone. They got the 2-point con­ver­sion to go back up by three, leav­ing two min­utes for Delaware to try and tie or win the game.

Sopho­more DeJoun Lee made that task much eas­ier by re­turn­ing the kick­off 47 yards to the Tow­son 36-yard line.

“That was huge,” said Blue Hen quar­ter­back Pat Ke­hoe. “I told them in the hud­dle, ‘I love you guys and I can’t wait to cel­e­brate with you.’ There’s no ques­tion we were go­ing for six.”

Ke­hoe went to work, com­plet­ing passes of 10 and 16 yards to put the Hens at the 5. Af­ter a short run, Ke­hoe floated a pass in sin­gle cov­er­age to Vinny Pa­pale in the back­right cor­ner of the end zone. It was their sec­ond touch­down con­nec­tion of the game and proved to be the game-win­ner.

“I had a step on (the de­fender) and Pat threw up an­other great ball,” said Pa­pale, who fin­ished with eight catches for 142 yards.

Tow­son (6-2, 4-1) made the home­com­ing fans’ hearts skip a beat when Shane Simp­son re­turned the kick­off 63 yards to the Delaware 33. Flacco had 20 sec­onds to work with, but af­ter com­plet­ing a pass to the 16, his next four at­tempts fell in­com­plete.

Ke­hoe fin­ished 18 of 32 for 305 yards with four touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion. Flacco was com­ing off a week that saw him named CAA Of­fen­sive Player of the Week, but he fin­ished just 21 of 42 for 225 yards with two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion.

“We didn’t take care of the lit­tle things, and that was dif­fer­ence in the game,” Tow­son head coach Rob Ambrose said. “We did not make the best of our op­por­tu­ni­ties. We had a chance to score a lot of points, but we got field goals in­stead of touch­downs. One guy made a mis­take on each of those plays and on of­fense, you need all 11 guys to get it right.”

The Tigers dom­i­nated the first half, though they reached the end zone only once. They took an early 8-0 lead on two field goals and a safety – the lat­ter score oc­cur­ring on a high punt snap that skid­ded on the wet turf out of the end zone.

The Blue Hens got on the board in the sec­ond quar­ter with a 77-yard, eight-minute drive that saw Ke­hoe com­plete his first passes of the game. He con­verted on 3rd-and-18 with a 27-yard pass to Joe Walker, and then found Charles Scarff in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touch­down. Frank Raggo’s streak of 88 ex­tra points was then snapped, keep­ing Tow­son ahead by two.

The Tigers re­sponded with their first touch­down, and then they forced a fum­ble dur­ing the en­su­ing kick­off re­turn. Ai­dan O’Neill kicked a 50-yard field goal, the long­est of his ca­reer, as time ex­pired to give Tow­son an 18-6 half­time lead.

Delaware got a short field to start the sec­ond half, and Ke­hoe set up its sec­ond touch­down with his long­est pass of the game, a 49-yarder to Pa­pale who made an over-theshoul­der catch be­fore be­ing tack­led at the 1-yard line. Kani Kane ran the ball in for the first of his two scores on the day.

The good feel­ing didn’t last long, as the Tigers added a field goal and an­other touch­down af­ter the Blue Hens’ sec­ond fum­bled punt snap.

“You sel­dom beat any­body when you have those kinds of mis­cues on spe­cial teams,” Rocco said. “I’m re­ally happy with the way our kids re­sponded. We started to throw the ball in the sec­ond half; we didn’t have much go­ing in the run­ning game. We started to take some shots down­field and that opened things up.”

The Delaware of­fense then came alive, as Ke­hoe threw back-to-back touch­down passes, as well as a pass for the Blue Hens’ first suc­cess­ful two-point con­ver­sion since 2015. A third scor­ing drive was thwarted when Ke­hoe threw an in­ter­cep­tion into the end zone early in the fourth quar­ter, but line­backer Ray Jones picked off Flacco on the next drive and re­turned it 37 yards to the Tow­son 8.

Kane scored two plays later to make it 3328.

Prior to Jones’ in­ter­cep­tion, the Blue Hen de­fense forced two straight punts.

“We got some stops on de­fense, we took the ball away and put some pres­sure on the quar­ter­back,” Rocco said.

Delaware line­backer Troy Reeder posted a game-high 12 tack­les, while Nasir Ad­der­ley was close be­hind with 10.

The Blue Hens won de­spite trail­ing in to­tal yards 451-340. They have now moved into a tie for first place in the con­fer­ence and will likely re­main in the FCS Top 25 for the third straight week.

“We’re in con­trol of our des­tiny,” Rocco said. “This is a gi­ant step. We’re rais­ing our ex­pec­ta­tions ev­ery day, and now the ques­tion is how will we re­spond?”

COURTESY OF MARK CAMP­BELL/UNIVER­SITY OF DELAWARE

Play­ers for Univer­sity of Delaware cel­e­brate a 40-36 home­com­ing vic­tory over No. 10 Tow­son on Satur­day.

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