Blue Hens fall to JMU 24-21 in final home game

 

Hens-Simba-JMU by .

Blue Hen safety Simba Gwashavanhu sacks JMU QB Bryan Shor in the second half of Saturday’s game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — For almost 60 minutes Delaware’s defense gave mighty James Madison’s offense just about all it could take.

Almost 60 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Blue Hens, the Dukes found a crack in Delaware’s defensive armor with just 17 seconds left and slipped through it.

JMU quarterback Bryan Schor dropped a soft 12-yard scoring pass into the hands of receiver Brandon Ravenel for the winning touchdown with just 17 seconds on the clock as the No. 14 Dukes somehow escaped with a 24-21 victory over the heartbroken Hens before a crowd of 16,994 at Delaware Stadium on Saturday evening.

Hens-Tarzsa-JMU by .

Delaware safety Ryan Torzsa returns a fumble 41 yards for a TD as Dukes’ quarterback Bryan Schor chases him. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

With no timeouts remaining, JMU (5-2 CAA, 8-2 overall) took advantage of a five-yard punt that gave it the ball at midfield with just 1:05 remaining. The Dukes covered the 51 yards on three completions from Schor.

On the game-winner, Ravenel came back for the ball along the sidelines as Delaware freshman cornerback Nasir Adderley slipped a step or two past him.

It was the third straight loss but the most crushing for the Hens (2-5 CAA, 3-7 overall).

“It was a heartbreaking loss for the players,” said coach Dave Brock. “I think they battled like I haven’t seen them battle in three years. I think we played harder than we’ve played, more physical than we’ve played and rose up against a team that I think is certainly one of the elite teams in the country. … I couldn’t be more proud of the players.

“I can’t imagine anybody’s played them close defensively like we did tonight. I think it’s really discouraging that we weren’t able to find a way to win the game.”

“It was just a good throw and good catch,” safety Ryan Torzsa said about the game-deciding TD. “Nas (Adderley) competed his tail off all night. My heart hurts for him and the seniors on our team that we couldn’t send them out with a win in their last home game.”

Even with the last TD, Delaware limited the Dukes to a season-low 24 points — a total that was half their average of 47.9 points per game. And, by allowing a season-low 388 yards against JMU, the Hens held the Dukes to more than 200 yards less than their average of 592.9 yards.

Brock called it his team’s best defensive effort in his three seasons as the Hens’ coach.

Certainly, when Delaware went to punt from its own 46 with just over a minute remaining, the Hens looked like they had a pretty good chance of knocking off the Dukes for a fourth straight time.

But JMU got some pressure on punter Eric Enderson. And while the kick didn’t get blocked, it seemed to throw off his timing.

The punt went almost straight up in the air before coming down at the Dukes’ 49.

Delaware faced a fourth-and-one on the punt and Brock said he considered going for it.

“I think ‘Endo’ is the best punter in the country,” Brock said about Enderson. “And then (the Hens would have) put the guys who have played the best for you all year on the field — a long field with no timeouts (for JMU) with a minute and maybe a little change (left) in the game. It didn’t work out. And when they don’t work out, they (his decisions) are not good.”

Offensively, the Hens hadn’t scored a touchdown in their last two games. But they took the opening possession and marched 77 yards for a TD with quarterback Joe Walker (12 carries-63 yards) scoring on a seven-yard run.

A 63-yard run by Kareem Williams (17 caries-113 yards) set up the TD.

With the contest tied 7-7 in the third quarter, Delaware handed JMU a touchdown when Walker and running back Thomas Jefferson (28 carries-120 yards) fumbled a handoff at the Hens’ three.

But Delaware answered with another scoring drive as Walker ran 14 yards for a TD that capped off an eight-play, 61-yard drive. That touchdown tied the game at 14-14.

The Hens finished with 318 yards and a 17-minute edge in time of possession but did lose three fumbles.

“We executed,” said Brock. “We blocked them, we ran the ball with authority. … We played physical and fast. We needed one more first down.”

Then the Hens got a break of their own when Torzsa scooped up a fumble and returned it 41 yards for a TD that gave Delaware a 21-14 lead just before the end of the third quarter. Linebacker Anthony Jackson helped force the fumble.

JMU got a short field goal early in the fourth quarter to set the stage for the final dramatics.

Still, for a Delaware team that had struggled so much the last two weeks, Saturday’s effort offered some much-needed hope. The Hens close the season next week at Elon as they’ll try to avoid becoming only the second eight-loss team in program history.

“Coach Brock always preaches that we should never let the outcome determine how we feel we played,” said Torzsa. “I thought we played a great game. That’s one of the best teams in the country. We executed our game plan on defense. The offense held the ball and kept the ball out of their offense’s hands.”

“It’s definitely not how we wanted it to end,” said defensive end Vince Hollerman, one of seven seniors who played their final home game.

“But I’m very proud. There’s no words to express it — how hard we fought, how hard we played.”

Extra points

Walker completed only 3-of-11 passes for 22 yards but did have at least a couple passes dropped. All three completions went to Diante Cherry. … Delaware had three sacks for 15 yards. … Linebacker Charles Bell posted a team-high 11 tackles for the Hens. … Delaware’s Blaine Woodson blocked a JMU 39-yard field goal attempt in the first half that kept the game tied at 7-7. … Schor completed 18-of-32 passes for 193 yards and ran for 17 times for 65 yards and a TD.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.