Last Minute Drive Lifts Richmond to 46-43 Victory over Delaware in Wild CAA Football Battle
NEWARK, Del. -- In a wild Colonial Athletic Association football clash that featured multiple big plays and combined 89 points and nearly 1,200 yards of total offense, the University of Richmond was able to spoil Senior Day for No. 21 ranked University of Delaware by making just one more play and handing the Hens a heartbreaking loss.
After Delaware had taken its first lead of the day on an 11-yard run by Andrew Pierce with just 45 seconds left to play, Richmond drove 75 yards and captured the 46-43 victory on a three-yard pass from Michael Strauss to Reggie Diggs with just four seconds left to end a hard-fought battle at Delaware Stadium.
Delaware (7-4, 4-3 CAA), which dropped its second straight game and put its NCAA post-season hopes in jeopardy, had battled back from a 36-17 deficit midway through the third quarter and had appeared to have sealed the win on Pierce’s second touchdown of game. But Richmond (5-6, 3-4 CAA), salvaging a disappointing season by winning its third straight game, had other plans.
“My heart is broken for the seniors,” said Delaware head coach Dave Brock. “I thought they battled and fought and gave every ounce of what they had, and to come up short is very disappointing for them. But I couldnt’ be more proud of the effort and character of this team and how they played in challenging spots. They made an awful lot of plays today but we ultimately didn’t get the results we wanted. Every kid in that locker room gave us everything they could give us. It’s disappointing when you lose a game like that, but we just have to move on.”
Strauss, who had already entered the game as the nation’s No. 9 leading passer with over 300 yards per game, was even better than usual Saturday as he completed 35 of 46 passes for five touchdowns and a school-record 543 yards. He hit five different receivers for touchdowns and commanded an offense that piled up 680 yards and 31 first downs. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 75 yards during the winning drive.
The 680 totals yards were the second highest total ever allowed by a Blue Hen team and the 543 passing yards was the most ever against Delaware, surpassing the previous record of 482 by Colgate and quarterback John Marzo in 1978. Three different Spider receivers went over the 100-yard receiving mark as Rashad Ponder caught nine passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, Stephen Barnette reeled in eight catches for 127 yards and a score, and Brian Braun collected three passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Richmond’s top receiver, senior Ben Edwards, missed most of the game after suffering an injury in the opening quarter.
Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley (at right), who played for the first time since Oct. 26 due to an upper body injury, was outstanding too as he shook off some early rust and finished the day completing 18 of 35 passes for 286 yards and four scores. Michael Johnson caught four passes for 132 yards, including the longest play from scrimmage for the Blue Hens all season when he caught an 80-yard scoring pass from Hurley, outrunning a host of UR defenders to pull UD to within 36-31 with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
The Blue Hens piled up 411 yards and 22 first downs themselves as Pierce ran for 55 yards and a score and Hurley added 47 yards on the ground. Pierce, an All-American who was one of 17 seniors who were honored in a pre-game ceremony prior to their final regular season home, improved his career rushing yardage total to 4,408 to move past Omar Cuff (2004-07) into second place on the all-time UD rushing list and No. 9 on the CAA charts. Pierce also became just the third place to surpass 5,000 career all-purpose yard in the loss.
Richmond jumped out to a 22-3 lead early in the second quarter as Strauss hit Edwards and Barnette for touchdown passes and backup quarterback David Broadus scored on a three-yard run. Delaware had gotten a 42-yard field goal from Sean Baner, a one-yard scoring toss from Hurley to tight end Nick Boyle, and a one-yard scoring dive that followed a blocked punt that narrowed the gap, but Richmond went into the break up 29-17 as Strauss threw a 50-yard scoring pass to Brian Brown just nine seconds before the horn.
The lead ballooned to 36-17 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Strauss to Hunter Westfall, but Delaware battled back again as Hurley hit running back Julian Laing on a 12-yard scoring pass in the flat with 5:47 left in the third stanza and hooked up with Johnson on the 80-yard catch-and-run four minutes later to cut the gap to 36-31.
After Richmond used a 34-yard field goal by Brandon Jordi to push the lead to 39-31, the Hens finally gained the lead as Hurley passed two yards to Pierce to cut the gap to 39-37 with 9:13 left and then took the advantage when Pierce capped a 72-yard drive with his 11-yard scoring run around the left side. Unfortunately for the Hens, that lead only held for another 41 seconds.
Delaware will look to close out the regular season with a win and make a strong impression on the NCAA Tournament selection committee when the Hens travel to PP&L Park in Chester, Pa. to take on long-time rival Villanova Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
• Delaware linebacker Patrick Callaway led the Delaware defensive effort with 12 tackles while Travis Hawkins added 11 stops Mario Rowson added 10 stops. Callaway, the CAA’s No. 2 leading tacklers, went over 100 tackles for the season
• Redshirt freshman punter Eric Enderson, already the nation’s No. 7 leading punter with a 44.1-yard average, booted five punts for a 49.0 average, including a long put of 56 yards
• Michael Johnson extended his pass-catching streak to 23 straight games. He now has three plays of over 70 yards this season
• Nick Boyle’s seven touchdown receptions ranks No. 2 among all NCAA FCS tight ends
• Delaware lost at home to Richmond for just the fourth time in 14 all-time meetings
• The Hens have now scored in 219 straight games since 1996 - the longest current streak of any CAA team - and have scored in 204 straight home games since 19