Blue Hens remain cautious after 2-1 start

Sussex Tech High grad Kani Kane scoring one of his three touchdowns vs. Cornell on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Delaware has been in this spot before.

In six of their last seven football seasons, the Blue Hens have started out 2-1 or 3-0.

But only twice have they finished with winning records in that span.

And none of those solid starts have led to Delaware making the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs.

So you’ll excuse the Hens if no one is getting carried away with the fact that Delaware is 2-1 right now after dumping Cornell, 41-14, on Saturday.

“We’ve got to have the underdog mentality and have a chip on our shoulder,” said senior fullback Kyle Yocum. “If we lose that, that’s not where we want to be. We’ve got to keep the underdog mentality and that’s going to help us move forward.”

“We’ve been playing pretty solid,” said junior cornerback Malcolm Brown. “But, like Coach (Danny Rocco) said, we left a lot of points on the field on offense (against Cornell). And defensively, we had our worst tackling game since I think I’ve been here.

“That’s going to have to improve in conference play, especially if we want to be the defense that we want to be. That was very uncharacteristic of us. I think we’ll work very hard to get it fixed in practice.”

Blue Hens head coach Danny Rocco

With an open date next weekend, the Hens have time this week to work on some of the finer details of their performance.

But they’ll also do it with a sense of urgency, knowing that their biggest challenge of the Colonial Athletic Association season looms on Sept. 30. That’s when Delaware hosts defending FCS national champion, and current No. 1-ranked James Madison.

A year ago, the Dukes ran over the Hens, 43-20.

The JMU game starts Delaware’s stretch of eight straight CAA contests.

“We just have to understand what’s out in front of us — and that’s JMU,” said Brown. “Everyone knows they’re a great football team. I think we have to use this week to our advantage, as much as we can.

“While they’re preparing for Maine, we’re preparing for them. It’ll be a good week to try to get ahead on these guys.”

Back to the drawing board

Rocco has said all along that he and his staff will use this open date to take a long, hard look at the Hens.

But that probably doesn’t mean the first-year coach will make any wholesale changes, either.

Delaware’s defense has lived up to its high expectations for the most part while the offense has shown signs of coming around.

Against Cornell, the Hens had both 200 passing and 200 rushing yards in a game for the first time since 2013.

“I am very committed to having a balanced offense,” said Rocco. “That’s very much something that we have to be able to do.”

Rocco did point out that his defensive coaching staff mostly came intact with him from Richmond.

The offensive staff, on the other hand, is made up of assistants from different programs. It may simply take a little more time for them to put it all together.

“Nothing’s changed (with the defensive staff), so we’re a little more efficient in that area,” said Rocco. “We’re streamlined. We know our answers, we know our go-to’s. We’re able to communicate amongst ourselves. There’s no hesitation in communication.

“In some of the other areas, we’re having a little less success with our ability to streamline our communication and be as efficient as we need to be. I have to own that. That’s my job. I will own that. But that is not quite where it needs to be.”

Born to run

Junior Kareem Williams owns five 100-yard rushing games in his Blue Hen career.

But Saturday’s 121-yard effort was his first since Nov. 21, 2015,

That’s mostly because Williams sat out last season due to Delaware’s depth at running back. Against Cornell, Williams also broke off a 49-yard run — the Hens’ longest of the season.
“It reminded me of the old days,” Williams said with a smile. “It’s very important establish the run. We’ve got too many backs not to — me, T.J. (Thomas Jefferson), Kani (Kane) and Khory (Spruill) coming up, too. We’ve got way too many weapons not to be breaking out runs every game.”

Extra points

Five different players have accounted for Delaware’s five interceptions. … Indian River High grad Jamie Jarmon already has a team-leading 13 catches for 144 yards. The most the junior has had in an entire season is 14 receptions … Senior linebacker Charles Bell has a team-best 24 tackles. … Eleven Hens have at least one catch …. Delaware is third in the CAA in both scoring and total defense.

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