BY DANIEL STEENKAMER
Managing Sports Editor
Late last November, Delaware’s football coaching staff began in earnest a diligent off-field undertaking: adding quarterback depth for the future without longtime starter Nolan Henderson.
With the Blue Hens’ Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff action on the docket, Delaware entered the transfer portal scouting process that “pretty much doesn’t stop,” Head Coach Ryan Carty said Monday, though the postseason is a pocket of time with increased attention to the roster-moving landscape.
“We needed to make sure that the [QB] room behind [Henderson] was clean for the future,” Carty said. “And that’s always the position in particular that’s the most important one to have depth at.”
Carty and his colleagues were sure to cover ample ground in surveying quarterbacks who could be up to the Hens’ task.
“We just put our head down like we always do and scoured the whole continent, to be honest,” Carty said.
In scrutinizing a list of available junior-college players, Zach Marker’s name stood out, Carty said, and come spring practice in Newark with Marker wearing blue and gold, the second-year head coach would get his first chance to observe the Norwalk, Iowa native pass the pigskin.
“Before the first spring practice, I had him out here, I said, ‘Well, now we’re about to see if you can actually throw,” Carty said of breaking in Marker. “Because I had never seen him throw live.”
Carty liked what he saw live at Hampton University in Saturday’s 47-3 thumping of HU by the Blue Hens. Marker’s pummeling of the Pirates while starting in lieu of Ryan O’Connor leads this week’s edition of 3 & Out.
Word of O’Connor’s withholding from the trip to Hampton due to an upper-body injury spread in the Armstrong Stadium press box pregame. Marker and freshmen Nick Minicucci and Daniel Lipovski were Delaware’s quarterbacks on the visiting sideline–all three wound up playing in the Hens’ outclassing of HU.
It began with Marker getting the start. The Iowa Central Community College transfer, who began the season in a platoon with O’Connor before getting hurt at Penn State in September, did not skip a beat in his resumption of playing time. Marker made quick work of overmatched Hampton, going 17-of-28 passing for 239 yards and one touchdown before ceding his spot in the shotgun to Minicucci late in the third quarter.
Marker also dashed for a rushing touchdown of 18 yards that put Delaware up by 30 in the second quarter.
“I felt good,” Marker said of his scamper postgame, but with one regret.
“I didn’t get up to my goal in miles per hour,” Marker said with a smile. “I only hit 20.1. I wanted 22.”
With O’Connor’s status uncertain for Delaware’s next outing at Towson University on Oct. 28, Marker might get another chance to meet his burst-of-speed benchmark sooner rather than later.
In addition to O’Connor’s absence, Delaware did not travel with wide receiver Chandler Harvin, who was held back with a lower-body injury. The Blue Hens weathered their missing offensive pieces much more competently than Hampton’s effort, which was missing starting quarterback Chris Zellous and leading running backs Elijah Burris and Darran Butts.
Though Pirates tailback Tymere Robinson filled in admirably as the hosts’ lone bright spot with his 20 carries for 119 yards, Delaware’s defense was not threatened by either of Hampton’s backup quarterbacks. The Blue Hens limited HU to 73 team passing yards on five completions by the combination of Jared Lewis and Malcolm Mays.
By scoring 17 first-quarter points, including Jourdan Townsend’s 82-yard punt return touchdown, Delaware left no doubt as to its superiority at Hampton in the first 15 minutes.
The quick cushion was to the delight of Delaware’s traveling fan contingent, which constituted a considerable chunk of the announced 4,186 in attendance.
Turning to Towson
In Towson Saturday, Delaware encounters a regional rival that appears ahead of schedule under first-year head coach Pete Shinnick. The Tigers are 2-2 in Coastal Athletic Association Football with the wins coming impressively at New Hampshire (54-51 in overtime) and at William & Mary (34-24).
While Towson-Delaware games are annually battles between teams with extensive familiarity and a healthy distaste for each other, the Tigers could have a special target trained on the Hens this Halloween weekend. Delaware rose to No. 5 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 on Monday.
The Blue Hens remain in first place in the CAA with four regular-season games remaining, but all will be more competitive than the beatdown in Hampton. The range of outcomes for Delaware continues to be wide: By winning out, the Hens would assure themselves a seed in the FCS playoffs. Just one loss, if not to Villanova University, would likely eliminate that first-round bye possibility.