Hurley Leads Aerial Attack as No. 15 Blue Hens Post Season-Opening 41-21 Victory Over West Chester
August 30, 2012
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
NEWARK, Del. -- Sophomore quarterback Trent Hurley (below right) threw for 310 yards in his Blue Hen debut and sophomore wide receiver Michael Johnson scored twice as the 15th-ranked University of Delaware football team opened the 2012 season with a 41-21 victory over longtime rival West Chester Thursday night at Delaware Stadium.
Facing the NCAA Division II Rams for the final time in this longtime rivalry, the Blue Hens (1-0) put up 487 total yards on offense and took advantage of four turnovers to down West Chester for the 19th straight time. The rivalry, which began in 1941 for these two schools just 25 miles apart, ends with Delaware holding a 47-6-1 advantage in the series. The series ends as both teams look to face opponents from their own divisions to help their post-season playoff chances in the future.
“It’s a start and we are 1-0 so we are happy about that,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who began his 11th season at the helm of his alma mater. “It’s a process and I thought there were some good things we did tonight that we can build on. You saw that Trent is a pretty talented kid and he threw the ball well. And I thought we did a good job in protection. West Chester does a good job offensively but we were disappointed that they were able to run the ball at us. We have to do a better job on that.”
Hurley, a first-year transfer from Bowling Green who earned the starting nod after a pre-season battle with incumbent starters Tim Donnelly and Trevor Sasek, hit on 24 of 35 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, including a 19-yard strike to Johnson and two scoring passes to Rob Jones.
“This was an awesome experience,” said Hurley, who became the first Delaware signal-caller to surpass the 300-yard mark in his Delaware debut. “This was my first collegiate start and it is something I have been working towards my whole life since I started playing when I was six-years old. I’ve always wanted to play college football so this is great. We saw some things (in their defense) tonight that we thought we could take advantage of and it worked out.”
Johnson also ran for a 19-yard touchdown, backup running back David Hayes scored on a three-yard run in the final minutes, and Sean Baner converted two field goals to lead the attack as the Hens won their eighth straight opener and improved to 10-1 in opening games under Keeler.
Jones caught six passes for 101 yards, including a nine-yard bullet from Hurley in the final minute of the first half and a 63-yard bomb down the left side early in the final stanza, and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for his career. Nihja White added seven catches for 77 yards and Johnson (at left) hauled in six passes for 88 yards and a score.
On the ground, Delaware junior All-American Andrew Pierce ran 22 times for 86 yards and became just the fourth player in UD history and the first junior to reach the 3,000-yard mark.
Delaware’s defense, despite allowing 410 total yards to West Chester, including a career-high 209-yard rushing effort from running back Rondell White, did come up with some big plays when it needed them, recovering two fumbles and intercepting two passes. Three of those turnovers set up Blue Hen scoring drives.
The Rams (0-1), who are coached by former Delaware quarterback Bill Zwaan, narrowed Delaware’s lead to 24-14 on a 10-yard pass from Sean McCartney to LaRonn Lee early in the third quarter, but that was as close as they would get as the Hens answered with a 22-yard field goal by first team All-CAA placekicker Baner - his seventh straight conversion dating back to last season - and Jones’ 63-yard touchdown haul to pull away.
The Blue Hens, who extended the Colonial Athletic Association’s longest active win streak to four games, jumped out to a 14-0- lead in the first quarter as Johnson scored on his two 19-yard plays. The first score was set up when Ethan Clark recovered a fumble that was caused when Tim Breaker put a hard hit on West Chester’s Lee following a reception. Johnson’s second score was set up when Breaker intercepted a pass at midfield.
West Chester answered with a 15-play, 98-yard drive that was capped by a four-yard run by McCartney just two minutes into the second quarter to put the Rams on the board. But Delaware came right back and took a 24-7 into the break as Baner kicked a 37-yard field goal and Hurley tossed his first scoring pass to Jones (at right) with just 43 seconds left in the half.
Lee’s nine-yard scoring catch from McCartney, which capped an 80-yard drive, pulled the Rams to within 24-14 with 10:43 left in the third quarter. However, West Chester could never get closer as Baner nailed a 22-yard field goal and Hurley hit Jones in stride past the WCU secondary for the 63-yard bomb.
Jones’ catch came on the first play from scrimmage after Delaware safety Jake Giusti intercepted a pass by Ram backup Mike Mattei on the Delaware 37-yard line. The two scores came just 59 seconds apart.
Mattei, who entered the game when McCartney went down with an injury, hit on 6 of 8 passes for 93 yards for the game, including a 26-yard pass to White with 5:25 left to play that cut the UD lead to 34-21.
White ran his way through the UD defense all night, carrying 28 times for 209 yards, including jaunts of 49 and 52 yards. His 209 yards tied for the second highest ever against Delaware and was also the highest total ever by a Blue Hen opponent in the 60-year history of Delaware Stadium.
Delaware will look to go 2-0 for the second time in three seasons next week when the Hens host in-state rival Delaware State in the newest addition of the Route 1 Rivalry. The game will be played at 3:30 p.m. before a nationally-televised audience on the NBC Sports Network.
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