Blue Hens eye tough road test vs. James Madison

“It’s more about the environment,” Blue Hen senior guard Will Lewis (68) said about playing on the road. “You don’t have your home stands going crazy if you do something good. Third down is kind of a big thing. We practice with loud noises trying to get ready for the environment.” (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

“It’s more about the environment,” Blue Hen senior guard Will Lewis (68) said about playing on the road. “You don’t have your home stands going crazy if you do something good. Third down is kind of a big thing. We practice with loud noises trying to get ready for the environment.” (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — James Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium is the biggest football arena in the CAA.

With its double-decker home stands and 25,000-seat capacity, it looks more like an NCAA Division I FBS facility than an FCS one.

JMU’s football program isn’t too shabby, either.

But if Delaware is going to make a run at the Colonial Athletic Association title this fall, the Blue Hens are going to have to figure out a way to win at places like Bridgeforth.

Dave Brock

Dave Brock

Delaware (2-1) opens its CAA schedule with a trip to seventh-ranked JMU (1-0 CAA, 3-1 overall) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. A big crowd is expected for JMU’s Family Weekend activities.

As is always the case, half of the Hens’ eight conference games are on the road. But this year, Delaware’s four CAA road games look especially rugged, with contests at JMU, William & Mary, Albany and Richmond awaiting the Hens over the next two months.

All four teams were ranked in the top 21 of the STATS FCS national poll on Monday.

The Hens say they’ll just have to be up to the challenge.

“JMU’s a great team,” said Delaware defensive end John Nassib. “Any road game is tough, especially in the CAA. We have our work cut out for us but I think we’ll be all right.

“I feel like it’s possible to go anywhere and win – with our team especially.”

“It’s more about the environment,” senior guard Will Lewis said about playing on the road. “You don’t have your home stands going crazy if you do something good. Third down is kind of a big thing. We practice with loud noises trying to get ready for the environment.

“On Friday night, usually you’re home, just relaxing in your house. When you’re on the road you’re in a hotel. It’s different.”

Delaware knew going into the year that it would have to win on the road to have a successful season. The Hens play six regular-season road games this fall, the most for the program since 1991.

So far, they’re 1-1 away from Delaware Stadium. By the time Delaware plays its second home game of the season, against Maine on Oct. 8, Delaware will have gone five straight weeks without playing a game in Newark.

On the bright side, the Hens have won their last two games at James Madison.

“Certainly it’s hard to go on the road in this league,” said Delaware coach Dave Bock. “Every single team understands the challenges that go along with it. But the league is what it is. You’ve really got to go out and really try to find a way to play the absolute best game you can play on a week-to-week basis.

“Even though we didn’t like having to go to Lafayette to play (on Sept. 10), the opportunity to win a road game should give us a little bit of momentum. It should give us a little understanding of the routine, an understanding of how we want to prepare and what we want to do. I feel good about that.”

Injury update

Brock said having an open date last weekend gave some much-needed rest to a few banged-up players.

At the moment, he said both starting quarterback Joe Walker (foot) and running back Wes Hills (elbow) look like they’ll be ready to play by Saturday. Both players missed the Wake Forest game on Sept. 17.

Brock said both Walker and Hills practiced on Sunday.

“I would anticipate knowing something for certain post-practice on Wednesday,” said Brock. “But right now they’re certainly on schedule to play.”
Starting cornerback Justin Watson (arm), on the hand, is still expected to miss another week or two.

Lewis hangs in there

Lewis has endured his share of injuries during his five-year career on Delaware’s offensive line.

But somehow the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder is still on the field as the Hens’ starting left guard every week.

“There’s probably not a true understanding – outside of our building – of how hard he’s had to work and what he’s had to endure with some of the things that have gone on with him physically,” said Brock, who doesn’t like to talk about the specifics of players’ injuries.

“I‘m very proud of what he’s done and how’s he’s played. We’re certainly looking for him, along with (senior tackle) Conner (Bozick) to anchor us as we go into this eight-game (CAA) stretch here.”

Lewis has played in 29 games with the Hens, including 25 starts. He said dealing with injuries is just part of the job description as a football player.

“It’s my fifth year, sometimes I’m banged up a little bit,” said Lewis. “You learn to take care of your body. … I feel good. It’s not a problem right now.

“I’m happy to go out there, enjoying every game. It’s surreal that I’ve only got eight left.”

Extra points

Saturday’s game will probably be the last for former Newark High standout Taylor Reynolds against his hometown team. Reynolds is a starting senior cornerback for JMU, although he didn’t play in the Dukes’ game at Maine on Saturday. …. JMU running back Khalid Abdullah was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week after running for a career-high 172 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against Maine. …  Hills’ 212-yard rushing performance against Delaware State in the Hens’ season opener is still the only 200-yard game by a CAA back this season.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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