Unfortunately, the second stanza was a forgettable one for the No. 8 ranked Blue Hens on a dreary day at Cowell Stadium.
After holding the high-powered New Hampshire offense scoreless and to just 63 total yards in the first half, the Hens never contained the Wildcats in the second stanza and dropped their first game of the season with a 34-14 setback in Colonial Athletic Association action.
No. 20 ranked New Hampshire (3-2, 1-1 CAA), coming off a wild 64-61 loss to Old Dominion a week ago in which they led 40-24 at halftime, scored on each of its first six possessions of the second half while holding Delaware to only 107 second half yards.
Delaware (4-1, 1-1 CAA), which had a seven-game win streak snapped, jumped out to a 7-0 lead at halftime but couldn’t reach the end zone again until Trent Hurley hit Mike Milburn (at right) on a 26-yard scoring pass in the final minute of play. Delaware had accumulated just 30 yards in the second half before completing that final 77-yard scoring drive.
“We had a world of opportunities in that first half but we could never take advantage,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, whose team last met New Hampshire in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals when the Hens posted a 16-3 victory. “Give Sean (UNH head coach Sean McDonnell) and his team all the credit. They made it a totally different ballgame in the second half.
“Our defense played well in the first half but we came out with the ball in the second half and had to punt right away and that gave them some momentum,” continued Keeler. “They got some confidence and it just snowballed from there. Our kids just didn’t react the way they needed to.”
Elusive New Hampshire quarterback Andy Vailas completed 23 of 36 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with wide receiver R.J. Harris (7 catches for 129 yards) on scoring throws of 7 and 32 yards. Vailas also scored a touchdown, Jimmy Owens romped 60 yard for another score, and Mike MacArthur booted two field goals to account for the UNH offense.
Hurley, who put the Hens on the board with a one-yard burst with 1:05 left in the first quarter, completed 18 of 27 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice in the second half with both leading to Wildcat scores. Andrew Pierce picked up 82 yards rushing while Stephen Clark and Nihja White each caught five passes.
New Hampshire, which entered the game averaging 37.2 points and 486.5 yards per game to rank among the national leaders, scored on its first six possessions of the second half, putting together consecutive drives that covered 72, 77, 67, and 85 yards. The Wildcats piled up 472 total yards on the day.
“Our problem was execution, point blank,” said Delaware linebacker Paul Worrilow (at left), who recorded five tackles and had a sack. “They only had 21 plays in the first half and we were in the right place. But in the second half, they executed way better. We had some communication breakdowns and got frustrated.”
Delaware opened the scoring late in the first half when the Hens drove 66 yards in 6:27, using a key fourth down conversion by Pierce to set up Hurley’s one-yard scoring burst.
The Hens had several chances to extend the lead in the opening half, but a long Hurley pass slipped out of the hands of White in the end zone and Sean Baner misfired on a 42-yard field goal attempt with nine seconds left before halftime.
Baner, the national leader in field goals, missed for the first time in 11 tries this season and had a two-year streak of 15 consecutive successful field goal attempts snapped, putting an end to a mark that had tied the school record set by Jon Striefsky in 2007.
Delaware received the opening kickoff of the second half but managed to gain just 15 yards on five plays and had to punt the ball away.
New Hampshire then set the tone for the rest of game, driving 72 yards on eight plays and tying the game at 7-7 on a seven-yard scoring pass from Vailas to Harris. After the next UD drive netted just 24 yards, the Wildcats came back with a 77-yard march and took the lead for good on a one-yard dive by Vailas with 5:08 left in the third quarter. It marked the first time all season that Delaware had trailed in a game.
“We are a young team and we hadn’t been down all season,” said Keeler, whose team returns home to host Maine next Saturday at Delaware Stadium. “We just have to come back with some urgency.”Hen Scratchings: Delaware’s seven-game winning streak was the longest in the nation at the NCAA FCS level, trailing only Harvard (11) and North Dakota State (8)…Hurley was trying to become the first UD quarterback to win his first five career starts since Dale Fry in 1991-93…DE Ethan Clark joined Pierce and Worrilow as a game captain but left the contest in the second half with a foot injury and did not return…Delaware was looking to claim its first 5-0 start since 2010 when the team started out 7-0 on the way to a national championship game appearance…Milburn’s fourth quarter touchdown was the first score of his career…White extended his mark for consecutive games with a reception to 36, two shy of the UD record of 38 by Eddie Conti…Delaware held the CAA’s leading rusher, Nico Steriti to just 18 yards on 10 carries.