Blue Hens blank W&M 17-0 for first shutout in six years

Cornerback Malcolm Brown makes a tackle for Delaware after a William & Mary pass completion. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Yes, Delaware wishes its offense was better at this stage of this season.

And, yes, the Blue Hens know they’ve got to score points if they’d like to keep winning.

But as long as Delaware’s defense keeps playing as well as it did in a 17-0 shutout of William & Mary on Saturday afternoon, the Hens will gladly take the victory as they head back to the offensive drawing board.

In a game played before a Parents Day crowd of 18,721, Delaware (2-1 CAA, 4-2 overall) won its second straight game while matching its victory total for each of the past two seasons.

By posting the program’s first shutout since 2011, the Hens own that two-game winning streak largely because they haven’t allowed a point in their last six quarters.

“I think that was our first complete game that we were able to put together,” said junior linebacker Troy Reeder. “Our emphasis as the game kept moving on was, we saw that zero up on the scoreboard and we wanted to keep it there.”

Delaware’s Jamie Jarmon pulls in a 27-yard touchdown pass from J.P. Caruso in the second quarter of Saturday’s win. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

“Today the defense really stole the show,” said coach Danny Rocco. “They were outstanding. They played with great passion, great energy. Our defense is playing with confidence right now.”

As much as Rocco enjoyed the victory, however, the first-year Delaware coach also warned that relying too much on the defense is a tough way to live.

“We all know the reality of this game and playing in this league,” said Rocco. “There are going to be days — we just know it — where you’re going to need 24, 28 or 31 (points) to win a football game. We’ve got to find ways to get to 24, 28 or 31 to be able to secure victory.

“They asked me about the score (at halftime) and I said, ‘I’d end it right now if I could. I’ll take 10-0 and go home.’ It’s not rocket science. I just want to win — 10-0, what’s there to complain about?

“But, on another day, 17 points won’t be enough.”

With that in mind, the Hens finished with just 195 total yards. That’s the fewest yards for a Delaware team in a win since 2001 when the Hens managed just 172 yards in a 10-6 victory over Richmond (which was also coach Tubby Raymond’s 300th win).

The Tribe (0-3 CAA, 2-4 overall) picked up just 196 yards. And the two teams also combined for only 21 first downs while punting the ball 20 times between them.

Delaware’s most successful drive came early in the second quarter.

Blue Hen safety Ray Jones looks to make a tackle in Saturday’s game against William & Mary. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

After the Hens’ defense pinned William & Mary deep in its own end of the field, a 13-yard punt return by Jamie Jarmon set up Delaware at the Tribe 38. Five plays later, quarterback J.P. Caruso (7-for-20, 78 yards) found Jarmon wide open on a deep crossing pattern.

The Indian River High grad snared the ball in his outstretched arms for a 27-yard touchdown pass that gave the Hens a 7-0 lead.

It was the fourth straight game that Jarmon (two receptions-37 yards) has caught a scoring pass, which ties for the third-longest such streak in school history.

“I was looking at the safety and I was like, he’s going to do exactly what we’ve been planning it to be all week,” said Jarmon. “When I saw him back up and not go across the middle, I instantly knew, this is six.

“It just honestly feels good to be able to provide a little spark and just contribute. I like having the ball in my hands.”

Delaware was able to tack on a much-needed field goal on the last play of the first half.

With the Tribe at its own 21, Blue Hen safety Nasir Adderley jumped a short route and appeared to have his hands on an interception. But the ball ricocheted off him and landed in the arms of freshman linebacker Colby Reeder at the William & Mary 18.

Frank Raggo made the turnover pay off by booting a 35-yard field goal to give Delaware a 10-0 advantage at intermission. The Hens’ offense just wishes it could have contributed more.

“It starts with me,” said Caruso, who was making his first collegiate start. “I’ve got to get better. I missed a lot of opportunities and a lot of plays that could have helped us put up more points.

“Even though we didn’t put up a lot of points today, I’m very happy that we won. That’s all that matters here. … I’m really happy for the guys and really thankful for the defense we have.”

The only points of the second half also came off a turnover in the fourth quarter.

The Tribe’s Jalen Christian was fielding a punt when he bobbled it into the hands of Adderley, who was the first defender downfield. The fumble recovery set up the Hens at the William & Mary 14.

Delaware simply gave the ball to Kani Kane (12 carries-49 yards) on four straight plays and the Sussex Tech High grad finally bulled his way in for a touchdown with only 5:52 left in the game.

It was the team-leading fifth TD of the year for the junior running back, who only joined the team as a walk-on over the summer.

“If you back the clock up to last spring, our running back situation looks a whole lot different,” said Rocco. “This young man, Kani, was just a guy we thought, ‘Hey, maybe he can play fullback?’ Maybe he can add a little bit of depth?’

“He’s getting better every week. He’s gaining some confidence every week. His best football is ahead of him.”

With Delaware hosting Richmond for homecoming on Saturday, this figures to be a strange week for Rocco. He was the Spiders’ head coach for the past five seasons after all.

“It will be one week where I won’t need a flip card to know who the other guys are,” Rocco quipped. “I can just roll the film and I’ll know who they are.”
Rocco is a little more focused on his current team right now.

“We’re 4-2, 2-1 in the CAA — we’re relevant here in October,” he said. “And we’re hopeful to remain relevant as we get further into the conference schedule.”

Extra points

Delaware did use former starting QB Joe Walker on several plays. He lined up at quarterback with Caruso set up as a wide receiver. Walker ran the ball on all four plays, finishing with 24 yards. … Adderley later did have an interception, returning it 45 yards. He also knocked down a couple passes, including one on a fourth-down stop. … William & Mary started a true freshman QB for the first time since 1975. Shon Mitchell completed 18-of-36 passes for 101 yards with two interceptions.

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