Managing Sports Editor
Early in the second quarter Saturday night at windy and damp Delaware Stadium, the Delaware football team’s prospects appeared as bleak as Newark’s ominous weather forecast. The University of New Hampshire had controlled the Coastal Athletic Association game in all facets, racing to an 18-0 lead.
When UNH quarterback Max Brosmer hit Wildcats tight end Kyle Lepkowski for a two-yard touchdown pass that put the visitors up by three scores with 13:03 to play in the second quarter, the Blue Hens fans who braved the elements were left with little to cheer and much to lament.
The Hens were seemingly on the verge of an outing to forget against their head coach’s former colleagues — Delaware’s Ryan Carty spent over a decade launching his coaching career at UNH before departing for Sam Houston State University.
Rather than fading into a blowout, the Blue Hens pieced together a comeback and held on in the contest’s waning moments for a 29-25 win.
With the defeat of the then-No. 11-ranked Wildcats, Delaware rose from No. 19 to No. 11 in the Stats Perform Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll on Monday.
The Review’s 3 & Out series marches on with top takeaways from the Hens’ toppling of New Hampshire in comeback fashion.
Wildcats way out in front early
New Hampshire looked right at home in the elements early on, dominating Delaware with a game-opening 18-point run. The Wildcats’ first score came unconventionally as they blocked a Blue Hen punt straight through the back of the south end zone for a safety. UNH also applied all kinds of pressure with the ball in its possession, slinking downfield through the air. Brosmer finished with 392 yards on 34-of-58 passing despite the inclement weather.
Delaware’s deficit against New Hampshire marked the second straight game in which the Blue Hens were shut out in the first quarter. In both cases, time of possession favored the Hens’ opponent in the first 15 minutes. On Sept. 16 versus Saint Francis, Delaware had the football for 5:52 in the first period. Saturday evening with UNH strong out of the gate, the Blue Hens possessed for 6:24 in the opening frame.
It should be noted that the ’Cats had the night’s strong wind at their back in the first quarter, helping matters for the visitors while giving Delaware’s offense virtually another defender to deal with in passing situations. Of course, with switches in orientation of each offense at quarter changes, the Hens got their turn with supporting winds.
Salvaging the second quarter sets up rally
Delaware’s turnaround began with its first touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Ryan O’Connor to Jourdan Townsend at 10:41 in the second. On fourth down and four to go at the New Hampshire 32, O’Connor located Townsend over the seam for the Hens’ breakthrough, which cut the Wildcats’ advantage to 18-7 upon Alex Schmoke’s successful point-after try.
Delaware concluded the first half with additional momentum via O’Connor’s touchdown shovel pass to running back Marcus Yarns, who ran for the 24-yard score to make it an 18-13 UNH lead with 1:56 to go in the period. Carty then elected to go for the two-point conversion attempt and the Blue Hens cashed in, with tailback Kyron Cumby’s rush trimming the deficit to 18-15.
That score stood in favor of the Wildcats at halftime once Schmoke’s 50-yard field goal try was wide right of the goalposts shaking in the wind as the clock expired.
Despite falling short of tying the game by the intermission, Delaware’s 15-point response to UNH’s 18-point cushion was sufficient to sap the Wildcats’ spirits.
“It was one of those things going into halftime, we’re up, but we lost some of that momentum,” New Hampshire Head Football Coach Rick Santos said Monday. “You could feel like our guys were deflated.”
Because Delaware won the coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half, the Blue Hens’ offense got first dibs on the football in the third quarter. Delaware made the most of the opportunity, marching down the field in short order to set up an O’Connor touchdown toss to Chandler Harvin from eight yards out with 13:44 in the third. The Hens took their first lead on the play, but their newfound 22-18 edge would be short-lived.
On the ensuing kickoff, New Hampshire all-purpose phenom Dylan Laube scampered all 100 yards for a rapid response of a touchdown. The swift counterpunch could have been backbreaking for the Blue Hens, but the dash wound up being the lone score allowed by Delaware in the second half.
The hosts’ stiff defense in the game’s later stages, coupled with Yarns’ 30-yard go-ahead touchdown rush late in the third, was sufficient for a signature Top 25 win. Delaware won its fourth straight in the series versus UNH and snared its first regular-season victory over a ranked opponent since handling then-No. 17 Rhode Island 42-21 on Sept. 17, 2022.
Room to rise after a bye
The triumph over New Hampshire tees up Delaware for what could be an October ascent in the CAA standings. In the next month, the Hens project to be favored against Duquesne University (Parents & Family Weekend), North Carolina A&T (Homecoming), Hampton University and Towson University. The November slate seems more menacing with a visit from Elon University on the docket, followed by a trip to Campbell University and the annual regular season finale versus rival Villanova University.
By improving to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play, Delaware has itself on the right initial trajectory to navigate that schedule well enough to earn a second straight Football Championship Subdivision playoff bid.
Fellow CAA squads on 2-0 league starts are William & Mary and Elon. William & Mary could prove to be a challenge to catch in the conference tally, as the Blue Hens do not face the Tribe in the regular season and the Tribe is set to oppose zero ranked FCS teams based on the current poll.
Delaware is off Saturday, Sept. 30 for its regular-season open date. Following the bye, the Blue Hens host Duquesne Oct. 7 for Parents & Family Weekend. Hens versus Dukes will be aired live on 91.3 FM WVUD.
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