Friday, September 2, 2016

Delaware Blue Hens Run Over Delaware State, 56-14, in Season Opener

NEWARK, Delaware -- Wes Hills made up for a lot of missed time Thursday night in the University of Delaware football team’s 2016 debut at Delaware Stadium. 

Hills, determined to make his return a big one after sitting out all but the 2015 opener while recovering from a broken foot, did just that as the junior running back ran for 212 yards and scored two touchdowns, one on a 59-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, to lead the Blue Hens to a 56-14 victory over in-state rival Delaware State before an appreciative crowd of 17,835. 

The Blue Hens piled up 487 yards of total offense, including 395 on the ground, and a dominating UD defense forced six turnovers and held the Hornets to just 184 total yards in the complete victory.

Delaware downed Delaware State for the seventh time without a loss in this in-state rivalry and in the process captured the 300th victory in the history of 65-year old Delaware Stadium.

“This first game back meant a lot to me,” said Hills, who posted his fifth career 100-yard rushing game and recorded the ninth highest single game rushing effort in Delaware history. “Coach (Dave) Brock and my team put a lot of faith in me and I had no choice but to go out there and give it my all. Being back feels great, being in front of the Delaware fans is an incredible feeling. Nothing beats it.”

The Blue Hens (1-0) drove 74 yards on their first drive and scored on a Jalen Randolph two-yard run just five minutes in to take a quick 7-0. They then promptly got the ball back when defensive end John Nassib intercepted a pass on Delaware State’s second play from scrimmage. Eleven plays later Delaware sophomore quarterback Joe Walker scored on a one-yard dive to push the lead to 14-0.

Delaware never looked back as Hills scored on runs of 13 and 59 yards to push the lead to 28-0 at the break, Randolph scored his second touchdown of the game five minutes into the second half, and Walker added a 25-yard scoring toss to Diante Cherry 24 seconds later to push the advantage to 42-0.

UD backup quarterback Blake Rankin added a 10-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Charles Scarff on the final play of the third quarter and sophomore linebacker Troy Reeder (above left), a Delaware native playing his first game for the Blue Hens after transfering from Penn State, put the cherry on top with a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown 12 second into the final stanza.

“I told the players before the game that I was going to relax and coach and they should go out and just have fun,” said Brock, who evened his four-year mark at Delaware to 18-18. “We have a close-knit group of guys who work hard with and for each other. You could sense that they were going to bring a lot of energy tonight. I am thrilled for them that they did that. The takeaways were fantastic, I thought we played smothering defense, ran the ball the way we want to run the football, and I think our passing game is going to be explosive. I’m excited about building on this and getting ready to go play Lafayette (next Saturday). Wes is a year older and a year stronger. The things he does for this team are contagious. He helps us win in so many more ways than what you see.”

Delaware sophomore Thomas Jefferson, the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Rookie of the Year, added 70 yards rushing while Randolph, who missed all but the first three games of the 2015 season himself due to an injury, picked up 55 yards.

In addition to interceptions by Nassib and Reeder, junior linebacker Anthony Jackson picked off two passes. The Hens had just 12 combined interceptions over the last two seasons.

Delaware State (0-1), coming off a 1-10 season a year ago, managed just 35 yards rushing. Quarterback Daniel Epperson hit on 13 of 26 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted four times. Mason Rutherford caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

• Delaware’s 56 points were its most since a 59-56 five-overtime loss to Richmond in 2007 and the most on opening day since a 62-21 win over Lehigh in 1993
• The 395 yards rushing were the most by a Delaware team since gaining 443 against West Chester in 2000 and the 487 total yards were the most since a 500-yard effort against Rhode Island in 2013.
• Delaware forced six turnovers on four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. That matched the most takeaways for the Hens since forcing six against Southern Illinois in a 2003 NCAA Tournament first round win
• Delaware is now 300-100-4 all-time (.747 winning pct.) at Delaware Stadium since the facility opened in 1952
• Delaware travels to Lafayette next Saturday, Sept. 10, before a Sept. 17 meeting vs. Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest on Sept. 24. The Hens won’t return home until Oct. 8 vs. Maine
• Blue Hen freshman walk-on kicker Jake Roth had four touchbacks on kickoffs in his collegiate debut
• Delaware held a huge 22-minute advantage in time of possession



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