VILLANOVA, Pa. -- This time, a slow start was just way too much to overcome for the University of Delaware football team.

Delaware, playing longtime rival Villanova in its annual Battle of the Blue rivalry, fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and could never recover in falling to the Wildcats by a 28-7 verdict at soggy Villanova Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Blue Hens (7-4, 5-3 Colonial Athletic Association) fell to Villanova for the sixth straight time and for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons. Still, Delaware will hold out slim hopes of earning an at-large spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The 24-team field will be announced live at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.

If Saturday was indeed the final game of the 2017 campaign, it was a year in which the Blue Hens made great strides under first-year head coach Danny Rocco. Delaware nearly equaled the win total from the previous two years and won seven games for the first time since the 2014 season. The five wins in conference play marked the best season for the Hens since 2011 when the team also went 7-4 overall and 5-3 in league play.

The Blue Hens, who finished the regular season having won five of the final seven games, could not generate enough offense to keep up with Villanova, which had struggled offensively itself for most of the season. The Wildcats (5-6, 3-5 CAA) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Delaware fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter and was down 28-0 after Villanova scored twice in the third stanza. Earlier this season, the Hens came back from a 20-7 halftime deficit to Stony Brook, 10-0 to Maine, and 3-0 to Albany before mounting comebacks. This time, the comeback never materialized.

Delaware finished with more first downs (18 to 16) and total yardage (336 to 322) than Villanova but managed just 44 yards in the first quarter and just 116 in the opening half. The Hens were also hurt by two interceptions, including one in the first quarter when Villanova linebacker Jeff Steeb picked off a pass by J.P. Caruso and sprinted into the end zone untouched from 38 yards out to give VU a 14-0 lead six minutes into the game.

Curuso (above left) hit on 21 of 33 passes for a career-high 197 yards and an 11-yard touchdown strike to Jamie Jarmon with 59 seconds left in the game to avoid the shutout. Jarmon caught five passes for 26 yards while Vinny Papale had three catches for 70 yards and Joe Walker hauled in three passes for 79 yards. Walker also had a team-high 37 yards rushing and threw an 18-yard pass.

Defensively, Delaware allowed a season-high 261 yards rushing as Villanova running back Aaron Forbes ran for 140 yards. Quarterback Jack Schetelich threw two touchdown passes to Taurus Phillips and ran for another score.

Blue Hen safety Nasir Adderley led the Hens with 12 tackles and forced a fumble while senior defensive tackle Blaine Woodson made 11 stops, including sack.

• Rocco, now in his 12th season as a college head coach, has never had a losing season and has won seven or more games 10 times
• Jarmon extended his pass-catching streak to 16 games and secured his team-leading sixth touchdown reception of the year. The six touchdowns is the most by a UD receiver since Michael Johnson had nine and current Baltimore Ravens tight end Nick Boyle had seven in 2013
Jake Roth is tied for the UD single season record with 23 kickoff touchbacks this season
• Punter Nick Pritchard averaged 40.0 yards on five punts and had three land inside the Villanova 20-yard line. His 25 punts inside the 20-yard line breaks the UD single season record of 24 by All-American Eric Enderson in 2015
• Delaware did not force a turnover for the first time this season. The Hens had intercepted 10 passes over the last five games.
• All four Delaware ball carries had nine rushes on the day. Walker finished with a team-high 37 yards, Caruso added 34 yards, Khory Spruill (above right) had 29, and Kani Kane added 21.

"We didn't start well today, which has happened several times this season, but we've always found a way to respond, which has been extraordinary. But today it just didn't happen. Nothing really seemed to go our way and we didn't make the plays when we needed to. I am disappointed and surprised that we didn't rise to the occasion. Villanova may have played one its best games of the season. Give them credit. They beat us to the punch in most phases of the game today."

On the future of Delaware Football
"Winning today really would have put us way ahead of schedule in terms of our rebuilding process. Seven wins is a solid season and we realize that. We won some tight games and beat some good football teams. I am excited about our future. We will learn from this experience and be a better football team next year."

"All season long we have been able to fight back and keep it close and rely on the defense to keep us in the game. We've used that energy to keep it going. It just didn't happen today. You just can't play all season like that. I thought both teams had a lot of energy today but they had more. It's disappointing."

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