No. 7 Delaware Overcomes Early Struggles, Posts 27-17 CAA Victory over League Newcomer Old Dominion
September 24, 2011
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware overcame some early miscues to post a 27-17 victory over league newcomer Old Dominion at Delaware Stadium Saturday as Tim Donnelly’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Rob Jones early in the final stanza put the No. 7 Blue Hens up for good.
Old Dominion (3-1, 0-1 CAA), a first-year member of the CAA in only its third season of intercollegiate football, lost for the first time this season while the Blue Hens (3-1, 1-0 CAA) won their third straight game.
Donnelly, the national leader with an 80 percent pass completion mark, continued his hot play as he completed 26 of 39 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning toss to Jones with 9:29 left to play to help the Hens overcome a 17-16 deficit.
“I was impressed with the poise our guys showed today,” said Keeler, whose squad gave up a touchdown off a bad punt snap and had a field goal blocked in the first quarter to go down early. “They never showed an ounce of panic when it would have been easy to get frustrated. Old Dominion is a very good football team and I give Coach (Bobby) Wilder and his team a lot of credit. Our defense was lights out today and it was nice to turn Timmy (Donnelly) loose and see him have a great day. This was a great win over a conference opponent and I think we watched our team grow up a bit this week.”
Donnelly (bottom right), who threw for 221 yards on 14 of 15 passing in a 45-0 win over Delaware State last week, hooked up with Jones on the first play from scrimmage after Travis Hawkins (top right) had returned a kickoff 60 yards to ODU 32-yard line.
Donnelly found Jones across the middle and junior receiver just barely got into the end zone for the score. Donnelly then connected with Nihja White (middle left) on the two-point conversion to give Delaware some breathing room at 24-17.
“Half of that touchdown goes to our return team and the other half goes to Rob and our offensive line,” said the humble Donnelly of the eventual game-winning scoring toss to Jones (bottom left). “We really got our confidence back after that. It was a big change of momentum.”
Delaware then put the final touches on the win as sophomore kicker Sean Baner booted his school-record tying fourth field goal of the game with 42 seconds left from 43 yard out to push the margin to 27-17. Baner, who tied the UD record of four field goals in a game set by Jon Striefsky vs. Navy in 2009, earlier had converted kicks from 20, 39, and 40 yards. His six field goal attempts was the most ever in a game by a UD player, breaking the mark of five by Brad Shushman vs. New Hampshire in 2003.
“We put him out there at the end of the game to win it and that’s what he did,” said Keeler of the first-year regular placekicker who had earlier missed two attempts, including a 25-yarder. “His play was very important to us today and so were some of the big returns we got. Our special teams hurt us at times today, but we also had some real positives too.”
The Monarchs, who were held under 40 points for the first time this season and to 24 points under their scoring average, had taken the lead when senior quarterback Thomas DeMarco hit Antonio Vaughan on a nine-yard scoring strike with 9:50 left in the game to complete an 81-yard drive that was highlighted by a 15-yard run by punter Jonathan Plisco off a fake on fourth down play at their own 23-yard line. Plisco, an All-American, also averaged 48.6 yards on seven punts on the day.
Delaware, however, came right back with Hawkins’ 60-yard kickoff return, Donnelly’s scoring toss to Jones, and Baner’s record-tying field goal to put the game away.
Old Dominion took the early lead when Chris Lovitt recovered a bad snap on a punt by Delaware and returned the fumble 18 yards for a 7-0 lead. But Delaware came back, using two Baner field goals, including a 40-yarder that was set up by a Marcus Burley interception, and a seven-yard scoring strike from Donnelly to White 42 seconds before halftime to take a 13-7 into the break. The Hens needed just 1:43 to march 64 yards on 11 plays and scored when White brought down a pass from Donnelly in the left side of the end zone.
ODU’s Jarod Brown and Delaware’s Baner traded field goals before Vaughan’s touchdown catch gave the Monarch back the lead at 17-16 with 9:50 left. Brown’s 20-yarder, which helped him remain a perfect 6 for 6 this season, capped a 76-yard drive that burned up 14 plays. Baner’s 20-yard field goal was set up when junior linebacker Paul Worrilow, who collected a game-high 13 tackles, recovered an ODU fumble on the Monarch 21-yard line after UD’s Leon Jackson knocked the ball loose from ODU’s Colby Goodwyn.
DeMarco hit on 23 of 46 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown for Old Dominion while Delaware’s White posted his second straight 100-yard receiving effort with seven reception for 117 yards.
Blue Hen Scratchings....True freshman Patrick Callaway got his second straight start at middle linebacker and posted a career-high 10 tackles...All-American sophomore running back Andrew Pierce was hampered by a knee injury and carried just 14 times for a career-low 21 yards...he is expected to be back at full strength next Saturday at Maine...White has now caught a pass in 26 straight games...Jones also returned four punts for a career-high 117 yards, including a career-long return of 60 yards...Jones’ 117 yards was the second highest single game total in UD history...UD opponents have converted just 7 of their last 40 third down attempts (17.5 percent) over the last three games...Hens will look to start 2-0 in league play for the second straight year and for the sixth time in 10 seasons under Keeler...Delaware punter Rauley Zaragoza almost matched Plisco in the punting department, averaging 43.6 yards on five punts, including a 60-yarder and three that landed inside the 20-yard line.