Blue Hens dominate 2nd half, snap skid vs. UNH 31-14

Blue Hen sophomore Kareem Williams finished with a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

Blue Hen sophomore Kareem Williams finished with a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — The first player Kareem Williams hit on the play was one of his own lineman.

But after that, the Delaware running back had clear sailing.

“No one was there,” said Williams, “so I just took off.”

Eighty-four yards later, Williams had himself the biggest play of the day and the Blue Hens had the momentum they had been so desperately needed.

Before they knew it, the Hens had themselves an impressive 31-14 Colonial Athletic Association football victory over New Hampshire played before a Parents Day crowd of 19,924 at Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

For Delaware (2-2 CAA, 3-4 overall), it was the program’s first regular-season win over the Wildcats (1-3, 3-4) since the national championship season of 2003. The Hens were 0-5 against UNH in the regular season since then.

Maybe more importantly, the victory helped wash away some of the memory of the Hens’ discouraging loss to winless Rhode Island two weeks ago.

Trailing 14-6 at halftime, Delaware pulled out the win in what is becoming its trademark blueprint. The combination of the Hens’ running game and stingy defense limited the Wildcats to a mere 53 yards and just over seven minutes in time of possession in the second half.

That’s how Delaware ended up outscoring UNH, 25-0, after halftime.

“It’s great, especially after our loss two weeks ago, to come back and beat New Hampshire, which is a very good program and has been for the last 10 years,” said sophomore linebacker Charles Bell.

Still, the Hens were trailing 14-9 and were stuck back at their own nine-yard line when Williams broke off his big run. The sixth-longest run in program history was a big reason the sophomore finished with a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries.

“We were half a block, half a man, a slapped ankle away from a couple split runs in the first half and didn’t get them,” said coach Dave Brock.
“Then Kareem got through and made a really, really good move outside. He’s a fast player.

“It was a huge, huge play in the game from a momentum standpoint. That got us jump-started and got us going.”

On the next play, Thomas Jefferson went up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown run that gave Delaware the lead for good with 6:04 left in the third quarter. The redshirt freshman ran for 98 yards and three TDs on 26 carries.

But the Hens were just getting started.

On the ensuing kickoff, Delaware’s Maurice Harley stripped the ball loose and Eric Patton recovered it at the Wildcats’ 23. Four plays after that, Jefferson scored on a one-yard run and the Hens’ lead had ballooned to 24-14 with 4:06 still left in the third quarter.

The finishing touch to the day, though, was the Hens’ 18-play, 76-yard march that ate up 10:20 of the fourth quarter. Delaware converted on four third downs on the drive as well as a fourth down before Williams scored on a three-yard run.

The TD gave the Hens their 31-14 cushion with just 3:09 left in the contest. The 18-play drive was Delaware’s longest since 2009.

“It’s hard to lose when you have the ball the whole game,” said Brock.

“I don’t think anybody thought we were going to throw it,” he said about the long drive. “So those kids have got to line up and they’ve got to put their body on somebody and get them blocked every snap. … If we’re geared up and running the ball efficiently, and we give ourselves four plays, we should be hard to stop.”

“It felt like we were just standing on the sidelines, watching the offense,” Bell said about the second half.

All that ball control was why New Hampshire finished with just 183 yards and nine first downs, the fewest the Hens have allowed since the Delaware State game in 2011. The Wildcats picked up only two first downs and ran just 21 offensive plays in the second half.

“We played like crazy on defense all night,” said Brock. “I’m thrilled with how we’re playing on defense. We tackled really, really well. We were physical. … We swarmed, we played fast.”

Saturday’s win gives Delaware the chance to get back to .500 next Saturday when it goes to Towson. While the Hens still have their work cut out for them, things are looking better for the program than it did two weeks ago.

“We beat a really, really good football team and we beat a great football program that has set a standard in this league for the last 12 years,”
said Brock. “We take an awful lot of pride in being on the field competing with them and obviously having success. We’re thrilled to win.”

Extra points

UNH’s chances of making the NCAA playoffs for a 12th straight year were probably ended by Saturday’s loss. … Freshman cornerback Nasir Adderley collected six tackles and four pass breakups … Kicker Frank Raggo missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal in the first half. But he hit a 33-yard field goal in the third quarter to snap an 0-for-3 streak. … Quarterback Joe Walker completed 7-of-11 passes for 71 yards while running nine times for 31 yards. … Williams’ 84-yard run was the Hens’ longest since QB Andy Hall went 85 yards in a win at Hofstra in 2003. … Saturday’s crowd was Delaware’s biggest home attendance since 2013. … The Wildcats converted on 4-of-4 fourth-down chances in the first half. … The Hens started the game with an onsides kick attempt that UNH recovered on the Delaware 45 and turned into a TD drive. … Williams fumbled on his one carry in last year’s loss to the Wildcats.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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