Blue Hens rebound by stopping UNH

The Hens’ DeJoun Lee is congratulated after his nine-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left in the second quarter. Delaware sports information

NEWARK — The last two minutes were a heart-pounding race.

On one side was New Hampshire’s offense, moving steadily but deliberately down the Delaware Stadium turf.

And on the other side was the game clock, clicking away the seconds.

Which would happen first — would the Wildcats reach the end zone or would the clock hit zero?

Finally, UNH quarterback Max Brosmer’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete, the clock ran out and No. 24 Delaware could at last celebrate a hard-earned 16-10 victory over the No. 22 Wildcats before a relieved crowd of 16,730 on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“It’s an experience,” senior defensive lineman Cam Kitchen said about the last-minute drive. “It’s definitely what you play football for. It’s fun. Your heart’s pumping. …”

And when the final pass falls incomplete?

“It’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders,” said Kitchen. “It’s like a sigh of relief.”

Former Smyrna High standout Will Knight gets loose for a 39-yard run late in the second quarter. Delaware sports information

Grinding out a victory meant a lot more than just surviving one last drive for the Blue Hens (2-1 CAA, 4-3 overall). It also was a measure of redemption for Delaware after its 42-7 rout at the hands of Elon last Saturday.

“This was one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in a long time,” said Delaware coach Danny Rocco.

The veteran coach used the word ‘embarrassed’ to describe the loss to Elon.

“Me losing a game is not all that uncommon,” said Rocco. “But that score was different. There was something about that game that didn’t feel right. We had to kind of press all the buttons and have all the conversations and kind of clear our emotions. … At the end of the day you either respond or you don’t respond. And this team responded.”

“Everybody goes through adversity,” said running back Will Knight (Smyrna). “We didn’t let it down us. We just kept fighting. We knew that we had to come back this week.”

In a lot of ways, Delaware just played old-fashioned football in handing the Wildcats (3-1 CAA, 4-3 overall) their first conference loss of the season.

Playing without starting QB Nolan Henderson (Smyrna), who took a hard hit to the head against Elon, the Hens threw the ball only 16 times. Instead, they kept the ball in the hands of DeJoun Lee (23 carries-103 yards) and Knight (16-101), who both went over 100 yards.

Senior defensive lineman Cam Kitchen recorded a pair of sacks, including one on which he forced and recovered a fumble. Delaware sports information

On Delaware’s only touchdown drive of the afternoon, the Hens covered 74 yards on a combined five running plays from Knight and Lee. Knight broke off a 39-yard run before Lee capped off the march with a nine-yard scoring run that tied the contest at 10-10 with 1:11 left before halftime.

The rest of Delaware’s scoring came from the right leg of Jake Roth, who made three of four field goals in the game. His 33-yarder in the third quarter and 29-yarder in the fourth quarter with 2:46 remaining accounted for the only second-half points.

“We talked about how it was going to be a dogfight and we were going to pound it,” said Lee. “Will and I talked about it — if we have a good game, this team has a good game. Obviously the ‘O’ line had a great game.

“We knew what we were getting into and we were excited about it. That’s what football is about.”

“On the way home (from Elon) on the plane, I told Jared (Ambrose) we need to get big and run the ball,” said Rocco, referring to his offensive coordinator. “As we put some drives together, we did have that rhythm where you know we were going to get five, we were going to get six, we were going to get seven or eight (yards). … We didn’t finish drives in the end zone the way you need to but it played out in our favor.”

The Hens’ defense did the rest, putting together one of their most complete performances of the season. Both UNH scoring drives came after interceptions, at the Delaware 34 and 31, in the second quarter.

Along with limiting the Wildcats to only 251 total yards, the Hens forced three turnovers. None of those turnovers were bigger than an interception by redshirt-freshman cornerback Amonte Strothers at the UNH eight yard line with 9:28 left in the game.

Kitchen also had a big game with two sacks, two pass breakups and a strip sack and recovery in the fourth quarter. The Hens had three sacks in the game after recording just one in their first six games.

“We have a lot of young guys that are very hungry,” said Kitchen. “It’s definitely something we’ve been waiting on doing.”

On the game’s final drive, the Wildcats marched 57 yards on 13 plays. They had a first down on the Delaware 22 with 10 seconds left.

On the first play, Brosmer’s pass was deflected and almost intercepted by linebacker Drew Nickles just short of the goal line.

Then on the last play, Brosmer (16-of-33 for 160 yards) tried to find Charles Briscoe running toward the sideline but led him out of bounds.

“There’s always hope if you’re willing to fight and if you care,” Rocco said about rebounding from last week’s loss. “This team cares, our coaches care. We’ve got fight and we’ve got passion. It was an ugly game in a lot of ways. We wanted it to be that.

“We had just enough firepower to find a way to win the game.”

Extra points

Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer had nine tackles and a first-half interception. … Senior quarterback Pat Kehoe completed 9-of-15 passes for 94 yards with the two interceptions. … Tim Poindexter also had nine tackles. … The Hens did give up three more sacks for losses of 32 yards. … Redshirt freshman QB Anthony Paoletti got in on a couple plays, completing a five-yard pass and getting sack for a 17-yard loss. … Roth’s other field goal attempt, from 52 yards, was long enough but hit the right upright.

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