Blue Hens 1-3 but still aim for successful year

Delaware running back Thomas Jefferson was named CAA Rookie of the Week after running for 163 yards and two TDs on 22 carries against North Carolina. His 72-yard scoring run on the second play of the game was the longest run by a freshman in school history. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Delaware running back Thomas Jefferson was named CAA Rookie of the Week after running for 163 yards and two TDs on 22 carries against North Carolina. His 72-yard scoring run on the second play of the game was the longest run by a freshman in school history. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK ­— If you disregard its record for a moment, there’s a lot to like about the way the Delaware football team has played lately.

The Blue Hens were competitive with both sixth-ranked Villanova and FBS North Carolina well into the second half the last two weeks.

But, of course, Delaware coach Dave Brock knows that the final score does matter.

So the fact that the Hens lost both those games means they’re not good enough yet.

Asked if his players had to avoid resting on their laurels, Brock was quick to say that shouldn’t be problem.

“Just so we’re clear, at 1-3 we don’t have any laurels to rest on,” Brock said on Monday. “Our situation and our circumstances are crystal clear. They’re crystal clear to the coaching staff, they’re crystal clear to the players.

“We’re about practicing as hard as we can practice, trying to get better every day in practice so we that we can be better Saturday night at 7:30 than we were against North Carolina.”

Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. is when Delaware (0-1 CAA, 1-3 overall) hosts William & Mary (1-0, 2-1). From here on out, the Hens play nothing but Colonial Athletic Association teams.

After only playing only one league game, Delaware can still work its way into the conference title race. As difficult as that task may be, the Hens still control their own fate.

“We still have all our team goals that Coach Brock set for us — they’re still in front of us,” said punter Eric Enderson. “We’ve played some really tough teams and they’ve been really close games. We just have to find a way to finish those close games and come out with a win instead of a close loss.

“But I thnk the team feels really good about where we are. We continue to build and grow and become a closer team than the ones in years past that I’ve been a part of. I think that’s really important. It’s a fun group of guys.”

Two weeks ago, Delaware led Villanova before the Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes to pull out a 28-21 win. Last week, the Hens trailed FBS Division I North Carolina by just six points in the third quarter before the Wildcats pulled away for a 41-14 victory.

The good news for Delaware is that it expects to get back wide receiver Diante Cherry, defensive end Vince Hollerman and guard Will Lewis. The three starters sat out the UNC game with injuries.

Despite playing very physical games in back-to-back weeks, Brock said he believes his team still has a lot left in the tank.

“I think that’s where youth helps you a little bit,” he said. “These kids are raring to go. We were flying around yesterday (on Sunday). We had a good practice and the kids had a lot of energy.

“I think they understand what’s ahead of us. We’ve got a seven-game conference season. Everything that we talked about in the beginning of the year — everything that we would hope to accomplish this season — is in front of us.”

Enderson motivated

Enderson has his own reasons for wanting to win Saturday’s game.

He grew up about 30 minutes away from William & Mary and his father is a graduate of the Virginia school.

Not surprisingly, that made William & Mary Enderson’s first choice coming out of high school. But the Tribe didn’t offer him a scholarship.

“I just remember the conversation with the coaches when they said, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to scholarship a kicker this year,’” said Enderson. “‘If you want to walk on and try to earn a scholarship then you can.’

“It’s kind of like a personal game. I always try to play my best when we play William & Mary and make sure that they think, at some point, that they might have made a mistake by not taking me.”

Coming into the season, Enderson ranked first among active FCS punters with a career average of 44.95 yards per kick. He and Portland State’s Kyle Loomis were the only FCS punters in the country to average over 44 yards per kick in both 2013 and 2014.

Passing game still grounded

Not too surprisingly, it’s taking a while for the Hens’ passing game to get going.

Delaware is ranked last in the 12-team CAA in passing efficiency and is averaging just 77.5 yards per game through the air.

On the other hand, the Hens are second in the conference in rushing offense at 226 yards per game.

Still, Brock knows Delaware has to do a better job throwing the ball.

“I do feel like it’s going to take time,” he said. “I do feel like we’re making progress. … We probably go into the game (at UNC) thinking we’re going to throw it a liitle bit more than we did. But when you’re running the ball as efficiently as we were. … a lot of those situations where you may throw the ball on second-and medium, we didn’t even bother risking it.”

Quarterback Joe Walker has completed 24-of-62 passes for 228 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

Extra points

Delaware running back Thomas Jefferson was named the CAA Rookie of the Week after running for 163 yards and two TDs on 22 carries against North Carolina. His 72-yard scoring run on the second play of the game was the longest run by a freshman in school history. “Thomas going out and playing well is not a surprise to anybody in this building,” said Brock. … The Hens have given up points on their opponents’ first possession in each of their four games this season. That total includes three touchdownsand a field goal. … Brock said that injured running back Jalen Randolph will be sidelined by injury again this week.

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