Blue Hen notebook: Hens set to prove that Pitt effort was no fluke

Delaware’s Tim Poindexter celebrates his interception in the Blue Hens’ 17-14 loss to Pitt. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — The score might have been a shock to some people, but Delaware’s football players say don’t put them in that group.

The Blue Hens say they expected to give Pittsburgh a battle — which they did before falling to the Panthers, 17-14, on Sept. 28.

“Honestly, I think that just proved our point that we can hang with anybody,” said sophomore safety Kedrick Whitehead (Middletown). “We can hang with the best of them.

“We knew we could. But going up there and actually doing it is different than saying it, different than having the pre-game speeches, the pre-game locker room talk about, ‘Oh, we can go toe-to-toe with this guy, we can go toe-to-toe with that guy.’

“But actually being toe-to-toe with an FBS opponent shows that we can do it. We can hang with anybody in the CAA.”

Of course, now Delaware is going to have to go out and prove it.

After an open date following the Pitt game, No. 15 Delaware (1-0 CAA, 3-2 overall) faces nothing but Colonial Athletic Association teams in its final seven games of the regular season. That stretch starts with Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Elon (1-2 CAA, 2-4).

Some people think that if Delaware can play a team like Pitt down to the wire, there’s no reason the Hens can’t contend for the CAA title and/or a second-straight NCAA FCS Division I playoff berth.

Things are rarely that simple, however.

“In sports, there is a reality that it’s difficult to be at your best each and every game,” said coach Danny Rocco. “You’d like to think that’s you’d over the same level of effort and physicality and preparation. But whatever we did here last week (against Pitt) in those areas, we need to learn from and grow from.”

The Hens are 7-1 in the month of October in their first two seasons under Danny Rocco. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

The month of October has been pretty good for Delaware lately. The Hens are 7-1 in the month in their first two seasons under Rocco.

This year, Delaware’s three October opponents — Elon, New Hampshire and Richmond — are a combined 7-9. That being said, Delaware probably isn’t good enough to beat any team that it takes lightly.

Picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the pre-season, the Hens still like the idea of sneaking up on opponents.

“One thing Coach Rocco always says is, there’s going to be a team that comes out of the CAA that may shock everybody,” said receiver Gene Coleman. “Last year it was Maine. And he always says, ‘Why not us?’

“I think we all believe in our talent and, more than anything, we believe in the preparation that we’ve put into this. … Everybody talks about us being a young team. But I think we’ve prepared for this season more than we did in any year since I’ve been here — physically and mentally. I think that’s going to take us far.”

Injury update

Rocco said Monday that some of Delaware’s top injured players are getting close to returning to the field.

In particular, the Hens have been missing starting running back DeJoun Lee and linebacker Johnny Buchanan.

“I definitely think if they’re not back here this week, they’ll be back the following week,” said Rocco. “We’re expecting them to be able to practice this week. Right now it’s on a limited basis.”

Plack making an impression

Redshirt freshman safety Noah Plack is starting to make an impact as a first-year starter.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he’s built a little more like a linebacker than a defensive back, He’s got 27 tackles with a pair of pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Rocco said Plack’s combination of size and speed make him a “unique athlete.”

“He could do a lot of different things for us,” said Rocco. “He’s a young player. He hasn’t played a lot of snaps. There’s things that he’s learning as he goes.

“He’s done everything one time. Like, there’s nothing he can’t do in terms of run force, in terms of pursuit, in terms of filling the alley, in terms of coverage, in terms of playing in the post — he can do it all. Now to do it consistently vs. different formations, different teams, different styles of play, that’s the next step for him.”

Extra points

Delaware moved up four spots in Monday’s Stat’s FCS poll despite having an open date. … Six CAA teams are currently in the FCS Top 25, led by No. 2 James Madison and No. 5 Villanova. … QB Nolan Henderson (Smyrna) is fifth in the CAA in passing efficiency at a rating of 148.4. … The Hens have only five takeaways this season but have also turned the ball over just five times.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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