Delaware earns upset win over No. 10 Towson
Comeback victory delivers Blue Hens 2nd win over ranked opponent this season
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?”
Players for University of Delaware celebrate a 40-36 homecoming victory over No. 10 Towson on Saturday.