Blue Hens win third in row, dominate at New Hampshire 38-14

The Hens’ Nassir Adderley returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

DURHAM, N.H. — Before Saturday’s game with New Hampshire, Delaware coach Danny Rocco had a pretty simple message for his players.

“Anybody in this room has the capability of stepping up and changing the outcome of the game,” he told them.

It ended up being one of those games — where a number of Delaware players made big plays — as the No. 24 Hens cruised to a 38-14 victory over New Hampshire in CAA football at Wildcat Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The win was the third in a row for Delaware (3-1 CAA, 5-2 overall), which was playing the Wildcats (0-4 CAA, 1-6 overall) for the first time since 2015.

One of those big plays was turned in by defensive lineman Cam Kitchen.

The Hens were leading only 10-7 in the final two minutes of the first half when Kitchen reached up with his right hand and intercepted a screen pass at the Wildcats’ eight. Joe Walker then scored on an eight-yard run on the next play to give Delaware a more-comfortable 17-7 halftime advantage.

Delaware defensive tackle Caleb Ashworth tackles UNH quarterback Trevor Knight in Saturday’s game. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“I just happened to see the running back sneak out,” said Kitchen. “I just got a hand up and happened to get two hands on it.

“It was a big play to take the momentum back. Like Coach Rocco said, he told us anybody can make the play. It just happened to be me. But it was a great way to get our offense and the team back on track.”

“I’m in the locker room at halftime and I’m yelling, ‘Where’s 99 (Kitchen)? Where’s 99?’” said Rocco. “I wanted to kind of single him out. … It kind of made us feel like we’re back in control of this football game.”

Delaware kept making plays like that to stretch its advantage.

When linebacker Troy Reeder blocked a punt in the third quarter to give the Hens the ball at the Wildcats’ 18, Kani Kane (Sussex Tech) scored on the next play to make it 24-7.

Then, in the fourth quarter, UNH made the score 31-14 on a 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown. But safety Nassir Adderley returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a TD that pushed Delaware’s lead back to 38-14.

It was a strange return. Adderley took a big hit after a short gain along the sidelines and everyone seemed to stop. The senior, though, wasn’t out of bounds and just took off again.

Blue Hen linebacker Colby Reeder grabs UNH quarterback Trevor Knight by his jersey on Saturday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

The Hens were expecting an onsides kick attempt but UNH kicked the ball deep. Delaware didn’t have any blocking set up.

“I was going to get what I could get,” said Adderley. “But I realized I was still (inbounds) and I can make something happen. So I just kept running.”

The Hens finished with only 177 total yards in the contest but that stat was somewhat skewed by the short fields they had. Along with the blocked punt and kickoff return, Delaware forced four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble).

Along with the blocked punt, Reeder recovered a high shotgun snap to set up another TD and posted a team-high eight tackles — including three for losses.

Quarterback Pat Kehoe completed only 7-of-10 passes for 94 yards but threw scoring passes to tight end Charles Scarff and receiver Vinny Paple. Kehoe, who was sacked three times, left the game with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter.

Rocco said the injury was not believed to be serious but that further tests would be done.

DeJoun Lee had a team-high 45 yards on 15 carries while Kane added 37 yards on nine carries.

“Offensively, we had the opening drive and then I didn’t feel real good about how we performed,” he said. “Our stat line probably is not going to look real good. We didn’t protect our quarterback very well.”

For a team trying to make the program’s first NCAA FCS Division I playoff appearance since 2010, every victory is big. But, after knocking off No. 5 Elon last week, the Hens turn around and host nationally-ranked Towson for homecoming next Saturday.

What Rocco liked as much as anything about the Hens’ performance on Saturday was their focus.

“I talk about alertness all the time,” he said. “It’s a skill. It’s something that you’ve got to be able to work on.

“My team was alert today. That’s exciting to see. We did it down at Richmond a couple weeks ago. We went on the road. Our kids were alert, they were in tune, they were in rhythm. They came out of the locker room ready to play. We certainly had that kind of energy out here today.”

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