Blue Hens Grind Out 16-3 NCAA Quarterfinal Victory over New Hampshire Behind Devlin and Defense
December 10, 2010
Pictured below, top to bottom: Anthony Walters (9), Pat Devlin (17), Anthony Bratton (4), Mark Schenauer (6) celebrates touchdown (Photos by Mark Campbell)
NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware football team has thrived all season long behind its dominating defense and the pinpoint accuracy of All-American quarterback Pat Devlin.
That combination rose to the occasion once again Friday night as the No. 3 seed and fifth-ranked Blue Hens (11-2) shut down No. 11 New Hampshire, holding the Wildcats to a single first quarter field goal and moving on to a 16-3 victory in an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game at chilly Delaware Stadium.
Delaware’s defense, which entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, allowing just over 12 points per game, held the potent UNH offense in check all night, limiting the Wildcats (8-5) to just 237 total yards and stopping them on 11 of 13 third down opportunities. New Hampshire, which had a five-game winning streak snapped, had scored 28 or more points in six of its last seven games, including a 45-20 win over Bethune-Cookman in last week’s NCAA second round playoff game.
Devlin, a Top 10 finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award earlier this season, was nearly flawless, completing 27 of 38 passes for 261 yards and putting the game away in the second for the Hens with scoring tosses of 24 yards to sophomore wide receiver Nihja White midway through the third quarter and nine yards to junior wideout Mark Schenauer early in the final stanza. Devlin, the national leader in pass completion pct. with a mark of 68 percent, also surpassed the 200-yard mark for the seventh straight game.
The Blue Hens, who snapped a personal three-game losing streak vs. their Colonial Athletic Association foes, now advance to the NCAA semifinals where they will host either Georgia Southern or Wofford next Friday or Saturday.
“That was two very good teams going at it out there,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who improved to 10-2 all-time in NCAA FCS playoff action for the Blue Hens, including a perfect 7-0 mark at home. “Our defense really played lights out against an awesome offense. All week long we talked about managing the moment and tonight we did a good job of that. At halftime, we were excited about the way things were going (3-3 tie) and we were confident about the second half. I just didn’t want this season to end. It’s so much fun to coach these kids.”
Delaware, which shared the CAA regular season title with William & Mary this season, advances to the NCAA semifinals for the third time in nine seasons under Keeler as the Hens won the NCAA national championship in 2003 and were runners-up in 2007. The win marked the first time since a 41-0 NCAA Division II semifinal win over Winston-Salem State in 1978 that the Hens did not allow a touchdown in a home playoff game.
Devlin, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year, directed an offense that overcame a sluggish first quarter to put up 383 total yards of offense. White caught eight passes for 94 yards while Crosby had seven catches for 55 yards, and Schenauer hauled in four passes for 43 yards and scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Freshman running back Andrew Pierce, the CAA Rookie of the Year and the league’s leading rusher, led all ground gainers with 90 yards on 23 carries. The Hens managed just one first down and 14 total yards in the first quarter before coming to life.
The Delaware defense, playing without six-year senior middle linebacker Matt Marcorelle who strained a calf muscle in warm-ups and did not play, recorded three sacks on the day and forced the game’s only turnover when senior cornerback Anthony Walters intercepted UNH quarterback R.J. Toman on a fourth down play at the Delaware 27-yard line with 5:47 left to play. Walters also had two interceptions in Delaware’s 42-20 second round NCAA win over Lehigh last week.
“We knew that New Hampshire had a real good offense,” said Walters, who also recorded three tackles. “But we had a good week of practice. We knew we had to be fundamentally sound playing against them and we would have to adjust fast. We were disappointed when we found out Matt was not going to play, we but had some guys step up and we didn’t miss a beat.'
Toman, a senior who returned to action after sitting out the Bethune-Cookman game with an ankle injury, completed 20 of 36 passes for 136 yards and also gained 39 yards rushing on 12 carries. All-CAA wide receiver Terrance Fox snared a career-high 11 passes for 72 yards while defensive end Brian McNally recorded a first half sack to set a UNH single season record with 12.5.
“It was a very tough loss,” said UNH head coach Sean McDonnell, who has led the Wildcats to their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance but has yet to advance past the quarterfinals in any of them. “Delaware got stronger as the game went on. I was very impressed with Pat Devlin. He may have been the difference. We played hard, but we hurt ourselves with so many penalties (10 for 72 yards) and just didn’t do things offensively to be successful.”
The teams battled to a 3-3 stalemate by halftime as UNH got on the board first on a 23-yard field goal by Mike MacArthur with 2:35 left in the opening stanza to cap a 75-yard drive.
But Delaware came back three possessions later to tie things as Mike Perry converted a 25-yard field goal with 3:00 left in the half. Delaware drove 85 yards on 15 plays with Devlin completing 8 of 9 passes for 64 yards during the charge. At one point in the first half he completed 10 straight attempts. The Hens had the chance to take the lead with 17 seconds left in the half but Perry was low and wide left on a 25-yard attempt.
The second half featured more tough defense, but Delaware was able to grind out just enough to put the game away. The Hens pushed the lead up to 9-3 with 7:09 left in the third stanza as Devlin hit White behind the defense and the sophomore outran the UNH defense for a 24-yard scoring play to cap a 59-yard drive.
“We have a lot of guys that we rotate at the wideout position,” said Keeler. “But it seems that Nihja makes the big catches. He’s been doing it all season long.”
Delaware used another long drive to add some insurance as the Hens marched 87 yards on 10 plays over a span of four minutes to up the margin to 16-3 when Devlin found Schenauer across the middle for a nine-yard scoring strike. The drive was highlighted by a 23-yard completion to White and two big catches by sophomore WR Rob Jones.
New Hampshire was able to cross midfield just twice in the second half against the Hens, including a drive to the 27-yard line late in the fourth quarter. But last-ditch, 11-play drive ended as Toman was intercepted by Walters at the Delaware nine-yard line on a fourth down play. Delaware then ran out the clock with 11 straight running plays to preserve the victory.
“When we went in at halftime, we had all the confidence in the world,” said Keeler. “We knew tonight would be a challenge and I didn’t feel a lot of points would be scored. We have shown all year that we can win games when we need to score a lot of points and we can win when we hold the other team off the scoreboard. This is a special team. We don’t have any superstars except for maybe number 17 (Devlin).”
Blue Hen Scratchings....Among the crowd was U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, a 1965 Delaware graduate who was a running back on the Blue Hen freshman team, and Chip Kelly, head coach of the top-ranked University of Oregon football team and a former UNH assistant coach...Delaware had lost its previous two games this season when the opponent scored first....the Hens downed New Hampshire for the first time since a 22-21 win at Durham, N.H. in 2003...Delaware is now 28-17 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a record of 20-5 at home...White extended his streak to 21 straight games with a reception...the game marked the sixth time that two CAA opponents faced each other in the post-season...Delaware is now 6-2 vs. Top 20 opponents this season...deep snapper and tight end Zack Reed and offensive tackle Kevin Uhll each played in his 51st consecutive game at Delaware, tying the school record of 51 by CB Sidney Haugabrook in 2001-03....Delaware reached the 11-win mark for the ninth time in school history and for the first time since 2007...Delaware has now scored in 183 straight home games since 1983.