Blue Hens rally for 24-6 road victory over Lafayette

Wide receiver Diante Cherry caught a 35-yard scoring pass to make it 17-6 with 7:10 remaining. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

Wide receiver Diante Cherry caught a 35-yard scoring pass to make it 17-6 with 7:10 remaining. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

EASTON, Pa. — For a long time, this game was painfully reminiscent of last season.

Delaware wasn’t playing horribly.

But the Blue Hens’ offense coughed and sputtered. And well into the third quarter, Delaware was still trailing underdog Lafayette by three.

This time, though, the Hens got their act together, scoring three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes and finally putting away a 24-6 victory over the Leopards at Fisher Stadium on Saturday evening.

Jalen Randolph

Jalen Randolph

A year after winning just four games, Delaware is 2-0 thanks to a pair of 100-yard rushing games from both Thomas Jefferson and Jalen Randolph and a stifling defense. The only drawback was that the Hens lost standout running back Wes Hills to an elbow injury on the second play of the contest.

Coach Dave Brock said the injury isn’t believed to be season-ending but that it’s soon to say when Hills might be back.

“I thought we lost a little bit of juice, a little bit of air went out of us when Wes got hurt,” said Brock. “I think, going forward, we need to do a better job when something like that comes up.

“I told the team, I felt like this might have been a game we wouldn’t have won in the past. There was a lot of resolve and a lot of character with the men in that locker room. They found a way to do it.”

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while Randolph added 105 yards and a TD on 18 carries. Quarterback Joe Walker also threw a big 35-yard scoring pass to receiver Diante Cherry in the fourth quarter as the Hens beat the Leopards (1-1) for the 13th straight time.

Mostly, though, Delaware just seemed to wear down Lafayette in the second half. The Hens ran for 276 yards in the game.

“We got hit the mouth when he (Hills) went down,” Jefferson said after his fourth career 100-yard game. “We just needed to go back to running the ball and understanding that we are a great running team. Lafayette played us really hard in that first half.

“We just had to go out there and execute the way we used to and how we do when we run the ball.”

“Obviously it’s great to finish the way we did,” said Randolph, who has five 100-yard games in his career. “That’s the team we’re built to be — we’re built to finish games and run the ball. As long as we can do that we’ll be fine.”

Trailing 6-3 in the third quarter, Delaware finally took advantage of some good field position to put together a touchdown drive.

The Hens needed to go only 49 yards, gaining all of them on six running plays. Jefferson burst 16 yards up the middle for the TD with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Hens’ second TD drive was impressive in that they overcame three penalties for 29 yards to complete a 91-yard march. On a fourth-and-seven, Walker found Cherry behind the Lafayette secondary for a 35-yard scoring pass to make it 17-6 with 7:10 remaining.

At one point on the drive, Delaware faced a second-and-22.

The Hens then added yet another touchdown when safety Ray Jones returned an interception 33 yards to the Lafayette 19. Four plays later, Randolph scored from the four and Delaware was in complete control at 24-6 with 4:32 on the clock.

“We didn’t do anything special,” said Randolph. “We just back to playing our game. Keeping our game plan simple and executing, that was really the difference between the first half and the second half.”

Defensively, the Hens limited the Leopards to only 189 total yards and a pair of field goals. And one of the field gals was set up by a muffed punt at the Delaware 11.

Lafayette managed just 80 yards and four first downs in the second half.

“I have more confidence in this defense than I’ve ever had,” said junior defensive tackle Blaine Woodson. “We don’t really get rattled any more. It’s a completely different defense. We just all trust each other to get our jobs done. And, when that happens, it’s incredible.”

Extra points

The Hens lost cornerback Malcolm Brown in the fourth quarter when he was ejected for a questionable targeting penalty. The Colonial Athletic Association will review tape of the play to decide whether Brown will be suspended for the first half of next week’s game at Wake Forest … Walker completed 5-of-15 passes for 66 yards but had one pass dropped that would have gone for a touchdown. … Jefferson became the third current player to go over the 1,000-yard career rushing mark. He’s the 58th player in school history to reach that plateau. … Delaware played without defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, who was in street clothes after injuring his leg against DSU last week. Grant Roberts made his first career start in his place. … The Hens were playing in Easton, Pa. for the first time since 1971. … Sophomore Jethro Pepe also made his first career start at offensive tackle. … The Hens return to action with a 6:30 p.m. game at Wake Forest next Saturday.

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