Blue Hen notebook: O lineman Farinella finally healthy, making impact

The Hens’ offensive linemen, left to right, Collin Wallish (71), David Kroll (72), Chuka Ezeuzoh (75), Mario Farinella (77) and Jethro Pepe (78) sit in the locker room before Delaware’s game at North Dakota State on Sept. 22. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Mario Farinella hates missing a chance to play football — even if it’s just because Delaware had an open date last weekend.

The senior offensive lineman has missed too much time already while being sidelined with injuries in his career.

“I’ve got limited time left obviously,” said Farinella. “The day I hang my cleats up is going to be a very hard day for me. It hurts when I’m not on the field.”

So far, so good,

With the Blue Hens (0-1 CAA, 2-2 overall) going to Richmond (0-2, 2-3) for a 3 p.m. Colonial Athletic Association game on Saturday, Farinella has started in all four games at right guard for the Hens.

Mario Farinella

It’s a far cry from 2016 when the 6-foot-1, 300-pounder missed all but the season opener because of a foot injury. After underdoing surgery, Farinella played in nine games last fall but didn’t start any.

Despite his lack of playing time over the last couple seasons, the CAA’s coaches still named Farinella to the preseason all-conference team.

Delaware coach Danny Rocco said it’s made a difference having the veteran back on the field this fall.

“I think the biggest thing right now is he does bring an air of confidence and a presence onto the field and into the huddle,” said Rocco. “There are moments when that’s what you need to have. … It’s going to be important here, obviously, as we move into the second half of our season.”

The Hens’ offensive line is a pretty veteran group. There are eight players on the two-deep depth chart who are in at least their third year in the program.

Of course there was a time when Farinella was just an up-and-coming youngster with a bright future. He got his first start as a redshirt freshman at North Carolina in 2015.

Farinella isn’t interested in dwelling on the past, however.

“To me, injuries are negative,” he said. “You try to get positives out of the injuries (but) to me, it hurt a lot — especially the way my career was going.

“I don’t try to dwell in the past, I try to move forward.”

Like the rest of his senior teammates, Farinella hopes the Hens haven’t played their best football yet. After a week of serious self-evaluation, they’re ready to get back on the field.

Farinella just wants to make the most of it.

“For me, the most exciting thing is I’m here now,” he said. “I’m healthy, I’m ready to go. I want to keep moving forward.”

Rocco back in Richmond

Saturday’s contest will mark Rocco’s first official return to Richmond since coaching the Spiders from 2012-16.

He’s done this kind of thing before — having gone back to Liberty when he was the coach at Richmond. He previously coached the Flames for six seasons.

Considering all the friends that Rocco and his family made at Richmond, Rocco said the trip will be sentimental for him in some ways.

“Those things are real but they have nothing to do with the football game,” he said. “I think you have two talented teams that are really working hard to put it together and play the kind of games we’re capable of playing.

“I know my team has certainly yet to hit our stride. This would certainly be the right time to do that.”

Interestingly, Rocco can also notch the 100th win of his career with a victory on Saturday. Forty-three of his wins came with the Spiders.

But, like with his homecoming, Rocco said the chance for a milestone will have no bearing on the game.

“I would love to get my third win of the season on Saturday,” he said.

Same story

A year ago, Delaware was also 2-2 at this stage of the season.

The Hens then won five of their last seven games to finish 7-4 and at least earn consideration for an NCAA FCS Division I playoff berh.

Delaware’s players believe they’re capable of making another run this year.

“That’s what Coach Rocco has been talking to us about all week — just realize that all our goals are still attainable,” said senior safety Nasir Adderley. “The past is the past. We’ve just got to move forward.

“We have the talent to do it. We went on a run last year but, once again, I feel like there’s things that we do that are stopping us from beating the opponents.”

Extra points

Saturday’s game will be televised by NBCS Washington … Delaware has won six of its last eight games following a bye week. As a head coach, Rocco’s teams are 8-4 after an open date. … Senior running back Kani Kane (Sussex Tech) needs 157 yards to reach 1,000 for his career. This is only Kane’s second season with the Hens after transferring from junior college. … Former UD standout running back Wes Hills, who’s using his final season of eligibility at Slippery Rock, has run for a team-high 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns in three games.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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