University of Delaware Football Headed Back to NCAA Tournament; Will Face Lehigh or Northern Iowa Dec. 4 After Bye Week
November 21, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The University of Delaware football team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament, and after a first round bye this weekend, will host a familiar host at Delaware Stadium on Dec. 4.
The Blue Hens, who ended the regular season with a 9-2 record and a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title, earned the No. 3 seed in the 20-team tournament which was announced live on ESPNU Television Sunday morning.
Delaware received a first round bye for this weekend’s first round games on Nov. 27, but will then host the winner of this week's matchup between Patriot League champion Lehigh and Missouri Valley Conference member Northern Iowa on Dec. 4 at Delaware Stadium. Both teams have visited Delaware Stadium for NCAA playoff action in recent years.
Game times will be announced this week with ticket information currently available on-line at www.bluehens.com/fan-zone/ncaa-playoff-info.html. Ticket prices will be $45 for box seats, $35 for Sections D&K, $30 for sidelines, $20 for end zone general admission, and $5 for UD students in the south end zone.
Tickets will go on sale for season ticket holders online on Sunday, Nov. 21, by phone beginning Nov. 22 at 9 a.m. (1-800-714-5953), and in person at the Delaware Stadium Box Office from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets for the general public go on sale online and by phone (1-800-745-3000) beginning Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. and in person beginning Nov. 29 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center Box Office.
“We have always done a good job in the playoffs so were are excited,” said ninth-year Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who is 8-2 in tournament games at UD. “This team has a lot to it. We are talented, we have a lot of heart, and we have great leadership. And we are fortunate to have the best quarterback in the country without question in Pat Devlin. This team is every bit as good as any team we have had here.”
“We are very excited to be in the playoffs and to get a bye week, and have a home game with the fans behind us,” said Devlin, a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. “Whoever we play, we are looking forward to it. Anytime you are in the playoffs its a fun situation. We have a great tradition here and I wanted to play for championships. We got one (share of CAA title) and we are working hard to get another.”
The Blue Hens, who entered last week as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team before falling to rival Villanova 28-21 in overtime on Saturday, will be making their 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament - and fourth in nine seasons under head coach K.C. Keeler. In their last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2007, the Hens advanced all the way to the national championship game before falling to top-seed Appalachian State. Delaware captured the NCAA title in 2003 when the Hens swept through the tournament and defeated Colgate 40-0 in the title game at Chattanooga, Tenn. Delaware also captured the national title in 1979 (NCAA II) and were national runners-up in 1974, 1978, 1982, and 2007.
Delaware has enjoyed one of its finest seasons in school history in 2010 as the Hens have posted a 9-2 record, defeated three Top 10 ranked teams, and earned a share of its first conference title since 2005. The Blue Hens lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 11.6 points per game, while also ranking No. 3 in total defense (267.8 yards per game) and No. 8 in passing efficiency defense. The Hens also rank No. 7 in turnover margin with a +11 ranking as the starting defensive secondary of seniors Anthony Walters, Anthony Bratton, Darryl Jones, and Tyrone Grant has combined to intercept 12 passes.
Offensively, the Hens are led by Walter Payton Award Player of the Year candidate in senior quarterback Pat Devlin, who has thrown for 2,158 yards and 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions and ranks No. 3 in the nation in completion percentage (67.3) and No. 6 in passing rating. Freshman running back Andrew Pierce, the leading freshman runner in the nation at the FCS level, has ran for 1,149 yards and 12 touchdowns. Six different receivers have caught 20 or more passes led by sophomore Nihja White with 42 receptions for 516 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, punter Ed Wagner (40.3 avg.) and kicker Mike Perry (15 of 20 field goals) rank among the national leaders at their positions.
Lehigh enters the tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams, having won seven straight games after losses of 35-0 to Villanova and 31-10 to New Hampshire. The Mountain Hawks rank among the top defensive teams in the nation, ranking 10th in scoring defense (18.1) behind inebacker Mike Groome (108 tackles). Quarterback Mike Lum has thrown for 2,252 yards and 15 touchdowns with Ryan Spadola having caught 64 passes for 931 yards and seven touchdowns. The Mountain Hawks are making their eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and first since 2004, including a 49-22 quarterfinal loss to Delaware in 1997.
Northern Iowa, making its 15th NCAA FCS Tournament appearance and its sixth since 2001, earned an at-large berth into this year’s tournament after winning five of its final six games. The Panthers fell to Western Illinois 30-14 in their regular season finale Saturday. UNI has one of the nation’s top rushing attacks led by quarterback Tirrell Rennie, who has rushed for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns while also throwing for 1,465 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensively, the Panthers average over three sacks per game.
Delaware has faced and defeated Northern Iowa twice in post-season play under Keeler with the Hens recording a 37-7 win at Delaware Stadium in the 2003 quarterfinals and a 39-27 win over the top-ranked Panthers in the 2007 quarterfinals.
All games of the tournament will be held at campus sites leading up to the championship game, which will be held for the first time at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 7. Delaware was among four CAA teams to make the tournament, joining William & Mary, which earned the CAA automatic berth, defending national champion Villanova, and New Hampshire. The Southern Conference and Missouri Valley Conference each placed three teams in the tournament.
The tournament field was expanded to 20 teams for the first time this season as the Big South and Northeast Conference were given automatic berths and two at-large opportunities were added.
In the four first-round games on Nov. 27, Northern Iowa hosts Lehigh, Coastal Carolina (6-5) will host Western Illinois (7-4), North Dakota State (7-4) will host Robert Morris (8-2), and Georgia Southern (7-4) will play host to South Carolina State (9-2).
In second round games on Dec. 4, No. 1 seed Appalachian State (9-2) will host the Coastal Carolina-Western Illinois winner; Stephen F. Austin (9-2) will host Villanova (7-4); No. 5 seed Eastern Washington (9-2) will host Southeast Missouri State (9-2); No. 4 seed Montana State (9-2) will host the North Dakota State-Robert Morris Winner; Bethune Cookman (10-1) will host New Hampshire (7-4); Jacksonville State (9-2) will host Wofford (9-2); and No. 2 seed William & Mary (8-3) will host the Georgia Southern-South Carolina State winner.
The quarterfinals will be held on Dec. 10-11 with the semifinals set for Dec. 17 (8 p.m.) and Dec. 18 (12 noon).