Saturday was Delaware’s fifth playoff game since 2010, and the team did not disappoint at Delaware Stadium. By breaking both team and individual records, the Hens certainly made the most of their opportunity – one they were not expecting after two losses to close the regular season.
In a 56-17 blowout of Saint Francis, the Blue Hens tied a school record for most points in a single Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) game, a mark first attained in 1992.
The Hens won this game due to great performances by Nolan Henderson going 16-of-23 with 266 yards and four touchdowns, Chandler Harvin with 128 yards and three touchdowns, the rushing attack as a whole with 283 yards and three touchdowns and Johnny Buchanan with 15 total tackles.
“I think the seniors and the leaders have done such a great job,” Delaware head coach Ryan Carty said, with Henderson and Buchanan sitting next to him in the postgame press conference. “They’re just going back to work and putting their head down and understanding that it’s not acceptable to lose football games in the way that we lost them.”
The Hens had heartbreaking losses in the final minutes against Richmond and Villanova, blowing the lead both times, while not being able to convert on late fourth downs. This helped fuel them toward a great week of practice, per Carty.
“I think we did an unbelievable job this week,” Carty said. “And you know, the leaders did a great job. Our coaching staff did a great job and it’s really just trying to get into a new season here and just … wipe what happened before.”
This led to Delaware wiping the slate clean and jumping all over St. Francis early.
“Obviously we know playing them from last year, they’re a physical team,” St. Francis head coach Chris Villarrial said of the Hens.
“I think one of the things that really got us … was the speed of the game,” Villarreal said. “It changed a little bit, it took us a little bit to get caught up and we missed some early balls that could have really changed things.”
Delaware’s fast-paced offense that caught the Red Flash off guard was led by Henderson who set the Delaware single season record with 32 passing touchdowns, breaking a record previously held by Matt Nagy.
This puts him only three touchdowns away from breaking the school’s career record which was held by Nagy as well with 58 touchdowns.
Thyrick Pitts tied a record held by Nihja White (2009-2012) for the most games in a row with at least one catch. Pitts’s streak of 42 straight games with at least a reception dates back to 2019.
Then Buchanan, Delaware’s star linebacker, reached over 300 career tackles.
The Hens began the contest on offense driving down the field with a 33-yard Henderson-to-Harvin connection and 13-yard Henderson scramble for a touchdown.
After forcing an early 3-and-out on defense, Delaware’s offense struck again with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Henderson to Harvin making it 14-0 with 7:19 left in the first.
Delaware then blocked a punt but failed to capitalize, turning it over at the one-yard line with a Henderson fumble that turned into a touchback.
The offense finally started clicking again when Marcus Yarns galloped for a 51-yard rush into the St. Francis red zone. This led to a touchdown from Henderson to Pitts, and five minutes later the Henderson-to-Harvin connection struck again for a 28-3 halftime lead.
As the second half began it was more of the same as Delaware continued to stifle the Red Flash offense, a unit that gained just 258 yards on the day.
Delaware took a 35-3 lead when Harvin hauled in his third score of the afternoon. The Red Flash tried to ignite their offense with backup quarterback Justin Silwoski, after starter Cole Doyle, the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, went just 7-for-20.
But even the quarterback change could not bring St. Francis a slimmer of hope in making the contest competitive.
St. Francis eventually found a way to get in the end zone though, making it 35-10. This was one of the slim bright spots on the day for the Red Flash, as Delaware won in dominant fashion 56-17.
The Blue Hens will need everyone to step up yet again next week as they look to steal one on the road against No. 1 South Dakota State and get revenge for 2020, when they lost 33-3 in the FCS semifinals.
“Nobody believes in us except the guys in that locker room and that excites me,” Henderson said when asked about this Saturday’s matchup at South Dakota State.