PORTLAND — The University of Delaware won its fourth Colonial Athletic Association football game of the season Saturday afternoon as the Blue Hens used a big second half to defeat Maine 31-17 at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
The turning point of the game occurred early in the fourth quarter when Maine punt returner Micah Wright was stripped of the ball by Delaware defensive back Nasir Adderley.
Blue Hens freshman Colby Reeder scooped up the ball at the Maine five-yard line and dove into the end zone for the crucial touchdown that gave the Blue Hens the lead for good at 24-17 with 13:22 remaining.
On the next Maine drive, the stingy Delaware defense held the Black Bears (4-4, 3-4 CAA) to just four yards.
On the ensuing Delaware drive, the Blue Hens (6-3, 4-2 CAA) went 58yards on 13 plays. The drive, which took nearly eight minutes off the clock (7:39), was capped by quarterback J.P. Caruso’s one-yard rushing touchdown with 4:07 left in the final period to seal the victory. The drive was the team’s third longest in terms of time this season.
For the afternoon, the Blue Hens accumulated 346 yards of total offense. Joe Walker provided a massive spark for UD as the junior quarterback turned all-purpose threat compiled 165 total yards between rushing, receiving and passing, including a huge 56-yard reception in the second quarter that set up the Hens first touchdown.
Tight end Brandon Whaley caught his first career touchdown pass at 5:42 of the second quarter to give the Hens their first points of the day while safety Tim the made his first career interception in the third quarter. Linebacker Troy Reeder made a career-high 17 tackles in the victory and also blocked a punt while his brother, Colby, also recorded a sack in the final quarter and finished with seven tackles.
Junior Kani Kane also for 99 yards and his seventh rushing touchdown of the season, a one-yard burst with 21 seconds left in the second quarter that give Delaware a 14-10 advantage at the break. Kane just missed surpassing the 100-yard mark for the third straight game.
Adderley, one of the nation’s leaders with five interceptions, recorded a career-high 14 tackles while Bilal Nichols had seven tackles, a sack, a pass breakup, and a blocked field goal. Delaware kicker Frank Raggo added a 48-yard field goal three minutes into the second half to give Delaware a 17-10 lead.
The win was Delaware’s fourth victory in its last five games and snapped a personal four-game losing streak against Maine. The Hens also snapped Maine’s season-best three-game winning streak.
Maine held a 451-346 advantage in total yards thanks to the play of running back Josh Mack, who ran for 173 yards and caught six passes for 38 yards. He entered the game leading all NCAA FCS runners with 139.9 yards rushing per game.
The Blue Hens return home next Saturday, hosting Albany for Senior Day. Kickoff from Delaware Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Head Coach Danny Rocco:
“Our special teams kept us in the game today, and then we got going on offense. We did a lot today with Joe Walker. We knew that Jamie Jarmon (out with an injury) was most likely not going to play, so we put a plan together for Joe to do some of the things that Jamie has been doing. That gave us the explosive plays that we needed to have in the game. Joe did a great job. I thought our ability to run the ball and get some first downs bleeding the clock down, was as significant as anything. Maine is very talented defensively and physical. Offensively they know what they’re doing with the ball. Their running back is very special. So we’re fortunate to get out of here with a win. I’m certainly excited to secure a winning season and to get a win in November. We’re excited to go home this week and continue our quest this season. We’re finding ways to remain relevant. Today was a great team win. The offense did things when they had to, and the defense made stops when they had to. Ultimately the special teams and kicking game made a lot of big plays.”
On play of Joe Walker:
“I have supported Joe since I arrived here. I have made comments about his athleticism. He is one of our guys that can take the ball the length of the field on a run, a pass or a scramble. He’s that athletic. He’s going to give us some energy here and some explosive production as we continue. Hopefully, we’ll have Jamie (Jarmon) back next week because that will give us a few more options.”
Junior Joe Walker:
“Today felt great being a guy who made plays and gave a spark when we needed. I always knew I could catch the ball, I just never played wide receiver. Today was the first time playing it. I was just trying to play my role and do as much as I could. We planned to have Jamie in the game with me, we didn’t know until yesterday that he wasn’t going to play. I think today was about building a routine so that when we both play teams don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Defensive Tackle Bilal Nichols:
“Today we did a great job of staying together as a team. That’s one thing we’ve done very well this season. We’ve stayed together and created unity. Coach Rocco always says our strength is in the unity of this group. We really believe that. Whenever times get rough we count on each other. We never give up. This team is so resilient and that’s what I’m most proud of. We come each day and work hard and count on each other. We played our best when it mattered the most today. When we really needed stops, we got them. When we really needed to control the line of scrimmage, we did. When we needed to get to the QB, we did. I feel that we made plays at the biggest moments of the game.”
• By winning their sixth game of the season, Delaware secured its first winning season since going 7-5 in 2013. Delaware head coach Rocco has now posted a winning campaign in all 12 of seasons as a college head coach
• Delaware played Maine in Portland for the first time in school history. The game marked the first time since 2005 that Maine played a game in the state’s largest city
• Delaware downed Maine for the first time since 2010 and won in the state of Maine for the first time since 2009 after two straight setbacks
• Rocco is now 26-12 (.684) during his head coaching career in games following a loss, including a 3-0 mark at Delaware
• Troy Reeder blocked a punt for the second straight season after also posting one at Richmond in 2016
• Delaware has now forced 22 turnovers this season, the fourth highest total in the nation and No. 2 in the CAA
• The Hens lost two fumbles in the first half, marking the first time Delaware had lost a fumble since the James Madison game on Sept. 30. Delaware had gone 265:43 minutes of playing time since its last lost fumble
• Raggo now has three field goals over 48 yards this season, has hit on 9 of 13 field goal attempts overall, and has converted 59 straight extra points
Photo: Mark Campbell/BlueHens.com