University of Delaware Football Ready for National Championship Game; #5 Blue Hens Face #1 Eastern Washington Friday Night in Texas
Photo (from left): Matt Marcorelle, Andrew Pierce, and Pat Devlin share a laugh at Thursday's press conference (Photo Courtesy of Mark Campbell)
January 6, 2011
FRISCO, Tex. -- The 2010 University of Delaware football’s team’s chase for immortality is just one day away.
The Blue Hens wrapped up preparation for Friday’s NCAA Division I Football Championship Thursday afternoon as they took part in a walkthrough followed by a media conference at Pizza Hut Park.
The No. 3 seed and fifth ranked Blue Hens (12-2) will chase their seventh national title, and first since 2003, Friday when they take on No. 5 seed and top-ranked Eastern Washington (12-2) at 6 p.m. CT. The game will be televised live nationally on ESPN2.
Colonial Athletic Association co-champion Delaware will be making its third NCAA national championship appearance in eight years - including a title game setback to Appalachian State in 2007 - while the Eagles will be playing in the national championship for the first time in school history.
“The hay is in the barn, we’ve prepared well, and we are expecting to play well ,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who is making his eighth national championship appearance, including five as head coach of NCAA Division III Rowan before returning to his alma mater in 2002. “Seven of the last eight title games have featured a team from the CAA and we are here for the third time so we are proud to represent them. We have had an amazing time here in Frisco. The community has opened its hearts and arms to us. We all feel good about the way we prepared for this game and we are anxious to play a great opponent. We are chasing immortality. We are in a one-game season now and we are all in.”
The Hens stormed through the playoffs, defeating Lehigh 42-20, New Hampshire 16-3, and Georgia Southern 27-10 in three home playoff home games at Delaware Stadium to advance to the finals. Delaware’s defense has been at its best all season and enters the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 11.5 points per game. The Hens also rank fifth in total defense (277.4 yards per game) and third in turnover margin, having forced 31 opponent miscues.
That defense is led by All-American defensive backs Anthony Walters and Anthony Bratton and sixth-year senior linebacker Matt Marcorelle. Walters ranks among the national leaders with seven interceptions, including three in the post-season, while Bratton has collected 92 tackles and broke up a team-high 12 passes and Marcorelle has added 81 stops, including a team-high 10 for losses.
“It’s important for us seniors to let the younger guys know that we remember our 4-8 season in 2008 and 6-5 last year,” said Walters, one of 17 seniors on the veteran squad. “It isn’t easy to get to where we are now, even though we made some games look easy this season. It has taken a lot of hard work and committent year round.”
The Blue Hens have been impressive on the offensive side of the ball as well behind All-American quarterback Pat Devlin, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year who has thrown for 2,812 yards and thrown 22 touchdowns with just two interceptions in 350 attempts. He leads the nation in pass completion percentage at 68 percent and is third in passing rating. Freshman All-American and 2010 CAA Offensive Player of the Year Andrew Pierce has led the ground game, gaining 1,513 yard and scoring 13 touchdowns. Sophomore Nijha White has caught a team-high 55 passes for 679 yards and six touchdowns.
Eastern Washington enters the game red-hot, having won 10 straight games, including NCAA playoff victories over Southeast Missouri State, North Dakota State, and defending national champion Villanova. The Eagles forced six turnovers in the 41-31 win over Villanova, a team that defeated Delaware 28-21 in overtime in the regular season finale.
Eastern Washington will be without All-American running back Taiwan Jones, who picked up 1,742 yards and 14 touchdowns before injuring a foot vs. North Dakota State. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has thrown for 3,194 yards and 34 touchdowns with Brandon Kaufman hauling in 67 passes for 1,094 yards and 13 scores. Linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who was named the Buck Buchanan Award Thursday night as the nation’s top defensive players, has recorded 158 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, and three interceptions.
“I’m blessed to be back here again,” said Marcorelle, who was a key player for the 2007 national runner-up squad. “I always said that if I ever made it back, I’d do everything I could to prepare to win the championship.”