Official press release from BlueHens.com
TOWSON, Md. — Just one week after an exhilarating double overtim victory over Richmond vaulted the University of Delaware into the Top 25, heartbreak hit on Saturday evening as the No. 23 ranked Blue Hens gave up a touchdown in the final minute and dropped an 18-17 Colonial Athletic Association football verdict to Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Blue Hens (5-3, 3-2 CAA), who had a three-game win streak snapped, led almost the entire game until the Tigers (3-5, 1-4 CAA) won it on a 14-yard fade pass into the end zone from quarterback Ryan Stover to Sam Gallahan with just 35 seconds left in the game. The Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak.
Despite the setback, Delaware remains in the hunt for a post-season playoff berth as wins against Maine, Albany, and Villanova over the next three weeks would give Delaware eight wins and virtually assure a spot in the 24-team tournament.
Delaware, which had taken a 14-3 lead on the first drive of the second half on a 30-yard run by Kareem Williams (#32 at left) and had gone up 17-11 on a Frank Raggo 26-yard field goal witih 9:43 left to play, had one last chance to score but were stopped at the Towson 44-yard line as a pair of passes by J.P. Caruso fell incomplete.
The last minute victory was nothing new in the series as five of the last seven matchups between these two longtime rivals separated by just an hour’s drive have been decided by a touchdown or less, including Delaware’s wild 32-31 comeback win in 2013 when the Hens scored 15 points in the final 48 seconds to win.
Delaware’s defense, the league’s No. 4 ranked unit, was strong once again as the Blue Hens held Towson to just 304 total yards and forced three turnovers. Unfortunately, the UD offense could not take advantage.
Delaware’s Colby Reeder recovered a fumble by Towson’s Coby Tippett on the Tiger 12-yard line following a muffed punt return with 11:10 left but had to settle for Raggo’s field goal after the offense managed to pick up just three yards on three plays.
After the teams traded possessions, Towson finally put the game-winning drive together, going 52 yards on eight plays capped by the game-winner from Stover to Gallahan. Stover threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 56 yards on the day.
Delaware junior Kani Kane led all runners with 113 yards on 22 carries – his second consecutive 100-yard effort – while Williams finished with 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Delaware finished with just 264 total yards, on 43 of them through the air.
Defensively for Delaware, senior defensive tackle Bilal Nichols finished with a team-high nine tackles while junior safety Nasir Adderley (#23 at right/ENP Photography) recorded eight tackles and intercepted a pass, a highlight reel version in which he leapt high to reach the ball and brought it down with one hand. Junior linebacker Troy Reeder also added eight tackles while junior defensive back K.C. Hinton recorded his first career pick in the first half.
HEAD COACH DANNY ROCCO
“I don’t know if it was a letdown. We got one of Towson’s better games this season and we played hard on defense. I thought our defensive played well enough on the road to come up with a win. We continue to lack explosive plays for touchdowns. We had some good runs today but we just didn’t get enough from the passing game. We have to go back to work this week and improve from our performance tonight.”
QUARTERBACK J.P. CARUSO
“We have to play better and smarter and it starts with me. We left a lot of yards out there. Our defense played well but our offense just didn’t get it done. But we won’t let this (loss) hold us back. Our road got harder but we aren’t out of it. We just have to come out this week and work hard.”
On settling for a field goal on the drive in the fourth quarter
“We have no excuse for not putting up more points right there. We could have ended it and we didn’t. That was big.”
• After Towson’s Aidan O’Neill converted a 33-yard field on Towson’s first drive of the day, Delaware came back to take a 7-3 lead into halftime on Caruso’s three-yard pass to tight end Charles Scarff (at left) on the first play of the second quarter
• Delaware drove 71 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half as Kane and Williams combined for all of the yards on the ground
• Delaware moved into the national Top 25 rankings for the first time since the 2014 season and were looking to equal its first four-game win streak since 2012
• Junior wide receiver Jamie Jarmon, who scored three touchdowns in the 42-35 double overtime win over Richmond last week, had his school-record tying streak of five straight games with a touchdown reception snapped but did extend his pass-catching streak to 13 straight games dating back to the 2016 season
• Delaware defensive tackle Blaine Woodson started his 41st straight game
• Raggo has now hit on 8 of 12 field goal attempts this season and extended his successful PAT streak to 57 straight
• Adderley, who entered the game ranked No. 7 in the NCAA in interceptions, now has a team-high five interceptions with four of them coming in the last three games
• Delaware will play its second straight CAA road game next Saturday when they travel to Portland, Maine to take on the Maine Black Bears on Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.
Photo: Mark Campbell