DELAWARE EDGES PENN 28-27
BY ROCK HOFFMAN
COLLEGE FOOTBALL EDITOR
Newark, DE - University of Pennsylvania head coach Ray Priore felt that for his team to beat the University of Delaware they were going to have to take some chances and so the Quakers did but ultimately fell short 28-27 after they went for a two-point conversion and the lead with less than three minutes left in the game Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium.
“We took it quarter by quarter,” Priore said, “and we said, ‘let’s take it down to the end. If we have a shot by the end of the game, let’s go for it.’ At some point in time, we had to get more points than they did. I thought on the two-yard line would be the perfect opportunity.”
Priore and the Quakers (0-1) were in position to go for the lead because Isaiah Malcome returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to bring the Red and Blue within one point with 2:24 to go. Nick Robinson's conversion pass bounced and the Blue Hens ran out the clock after getting the ball following an unsuccessful onside kick.
The Blue Hens (3-1, 1-0 CAA) started fast with Thyrick Pitts catching a 29-yard touchdown pass from Nolan Henderson, who was making his first career start at quarterback, just two-and-a-half minutes into the contest. After a three-and-out by the Quakers, Delaware moved the ball again but Jake Roth missed a 39-yard field goal.
Lifted by the miss, Penn matriculated the ball down the field and tied the score with a four-yard pass from Robinson to Kolton Huber. The Penn defense forced two straight punts, after the first, Robinson was intercepted by Drew Nickles at the Delaware 14-yard line. Following the second punt, Malcome set up his first touchdown of the day (a one-yard pass from Robinson) with a 46-yard run.
The Quakers were driving late in the first half, but Ryan Cragun, who finished with 145 yards on eight catches, had the ball knocked loose by Noah Plack and Anthony Toro jumped on it at the Delaware 37.
With the first possession of the second half, the Quakers extended their lead to 21-7 when Huber caught his second touchdown of the day - a 12-yarder. It came on another shot by the Quakers who were facing a fourth-and-one on the play.
“Any time you go for it on fourth down,” said Robinson, “you’re pretty locked in, you’re going for it. You’re playing aggressive and guys enjoy doing that.”
The Blue Hens answered immediately. Henderson ran 16 yards for a first down, a penalty against Penn added 15 yards and Andre Robinson's 25-yard run set up an 11-yard touchdown catch by Gene Coleman.
“In the second half, we started running more gap schemes,” said Delaware head coach Danny Rocco. For the game, the Blue Hens totaled 100 yards on the ground as a team after gaining just 26 yards in the first two quarters. “We were running all zone schemes in the first half. The gap running game got some things going for us with Andre and Will [Knight].”
Delaware tied it with their next chance. Knight had a 23-yard run on a third down to set up Bryce De Maille's 17-yard touchdown catch.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Penn went for it on fourth-and-two at the Delaware 43 but Karekin Brooks, who finished with 158 yards became the 11th back in Quaker history to go over 2,000 yards for a career, was stopped short.
“The defense played their best toward the end,” said Rocco while noting the Quakers, who were seven-of-eight on third down conversions in the first half, converted just two-of-seven in the second half. “A little pressure on the quarterback made some plays on third down.”
The Quakers defense rose to the occasion. They forced a field goal try from 44 yards which Roth missed again, wide right.
Penn couldn't capitalize and fourth-and-one at their own 36 was too big a gamble with just under 10 minutes left. Delaware got the ball back they scored on a six-yard run by Knight, one play after a 45-yard catch by Pitts, who had 128 yards on five catches, gave them a first-and-goal.
On the ensuing possession, Penn was forced to punt but with the clock winding down, the defense put a quick stop to the Blue Hens chance. After an initial first down, Sam Phillippi tackled Knight for a short gain, Adam Conyer sacked Henderson and Brian O'Neill made sure Henderson didn't get more than three yards on third-and-long. The Quakers were getting the ball back with 2:41 left but thanks to Malcolm's return right up the middle, they would only need 17 seconds. Penn would "go for it" one more time.
“There’s no such thing as a good loss,” said Priore said, “but I’ll tell you this, if our kids can play this way for the duration [of the season], I’ll be real, real happy.”
“The big news is we won,” said Rocco, who agreed with Priore’s decision to go for two, “another game where we were trailing. We were able to come back and find a way to win. That’s a real statement about your program.”
Email Rock Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org