Blue Hens Use Big Plays from Pierce, Johnson, Defeat Rhode Island 35-13 for First Road Win
KINGSTON, R.I. -- The University of Delaware sewed up its first road victory of the season Saturday afternoon as the Blue Hens scored three times on the way to a big halftime lead and Andrew Pierce and Michael Johnson broke away for long touchdown runs in the third quarter for a 35-13 Colonial Athletic Association football victory over Rhode Island at blustery Meade Stadium.
Delaware (6-2, 3-1 CAA), which is 5-0 at home this season but had been dominated by Navy and Maine in its two lone ventures away from Delaware Stadium this fall, led 21-6 at the break and used two big plays in the third stanza to cruise to its second straight victory and remain in the thick of the CAA championship race heading into a big game next week at Towson.
The Hens snapped a streak of five straight road losses and won away from home for the first time since a 51-21 victory over William & Mary last Sep. 22. Rhode Island (3-6, 2-4 CAA), coming off a 12-10 win over Richmond at home last week, turned the ball over twice and managed just 273 total yards.
“It’s hard to win and especially hard to win on the road,” said Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley, who threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Boyle in the second quarter. “We needed it. It was an awesome win.”
Pierce (at left) finished the day with117 yards rushing and three touchdowns while Johnson became the first wide receiver in school history to surpass the 100-yard mark rushing with 123 yards and a score on just three carries. He also caught five passes for 84 yards to lead a UD attack that piled up 500 yards of total offense. Hurley (below left) connected on 14 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Delaware had two players surpass the 100-yard mark for the first time since 2011 and had two separate runs of 70 or more yards in a game for only the second time in school history and for the first time since a win over West Chester during the 1995 season.
Pierce, who surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the 21st time in his career, scored on runs of two and four yards in the first half and broke away on a career-long 75-yard scoring romp on the first play from scrimmage in the second half as he broke through the line and outran a host of Ram defensive backs.
Johnson later took a hand-off on an end-run and rambled 78 yards for a touchdown with 17 seconds left in the third quarter to close the scoring and push the Blue Hen lead to 35-13. Johnson sprinted towards the left side, made several moves, and barely stayed in bounds while outrunning the URI defenders.
Defensively, the Blue Hens held Rhode Island to just 273 total yards and stopped the Rams on fourth and short situations four times in five tries. Patrick Callaway recovered a fumble in the first half and David Mackall (at right above) came up with an interception in the second half while recording a team-high 14 tackles.
“We are excited to get a win on the road - it was a long time coming,” said Delaware head coach Dave Brock. “We knew it would be very challenging coming in. We played well enough to get the lead and then we were able to hold it and were helped out by two explosive runs. Winning today means that we will play meaningful games in November and ultimately that is what everyone wants to do when they start the season.”
Delaware avoided some early troubles after Rhode Island’s Mackenzie Elliott returned the opening kickoff down to the 16-yard line and a UD penalty started the drive at the eight-yard line. But on the second play from scrimmage, URI’s Robbie Delgado fumbled and Callaway jumped on it to avert further danger.
Two possession later the Hens drove 55 yards to open the scoring as Hurley hit a wide-open Johnson on a 48-yard pass down to the seven and Pierce ran in for the score from two yards out just two plays later.
Rhode Island, playing before a Homecoming crowd, came right back to score its first points as the Rams drove 55 yards and scored on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Bob Bentsen to Robbie Jackson on the first play of the second quarter. A botched conversion helped the Hens maintain a 7-6 lead. The touchdown was set up when Hurley fumbled while attempting to pass and URI’s Tim Wienclaw recovered at the 45-yard line.
The Hens then took a 21-6 lead into halftime as Hurley hit Boyle on a 19-yard scoring pass - Boyle’s team-high six touchdown reception of the season - four minutes later. The drive went for a season-long 98 yards on nine plays and included a big 27-yard run by Julian Laing early in the drive. Pierce later capped a 63-yard drive with a four-yard scoring run with 5:56 left.
Delaware had the chance to put more points on the board but a drive that reached the Ram seven-yard line stalled and Sean Baner missed a 40-yard field goal just before the break.
The Hens pretty much put the game away in the opening moments of the second half as Pierce exploded on his 75-yard scoring jaunt to push the lead to 28-6. Rhode Island answered with a three-yard scoring run by Delgado with 5:24 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 28-13, but Johnson helped the Hens put the game away with his long scoring run, the third of 70+ yards by the Hens in the last two weeks.
Delaware will return to action next Saturday when the Blue Hens face a big test at Towson at 7 p.m.
• Delaware defeated Rhode Island for the second straight year and for the sixth time in the last seven meetings
• Delaware has now won seven of its last eight games when coming off a bye week
• Johnson caught a pass for the 19th straight game
• Pierce’s 21 career 100-yard rushing games is just one shy of the school record of 22 by Omar Cuff (2004-07) and Daryl Brown (1994-97)
• Pierce has now rushed for 4,278 career yards and is just 86 yards shy of Cuff’s No. 2 spot in UD history and No. 9 position in CAA history of 4,364 yards
• Punter Eric Enderson averaged 55.0 yards on three punts, including a 69-yarder in the second half that landed inside the URI five-yard line