Caruso to start at quarterback after shining in Blue Hen win

J.P. Caruso, the first-year transfer from Appalachian State, has been listed as the starting quarterback for Delaware’s home game against William & Mary this Saturday after playing all but the first two series in the Blue Hens’ dramatic win at Stony Brook. (Stony Brook sports information photos)

NEWARK — If there was one Delaware football player who looked happier than anyone else on Saturday night, it was J.P. Caruso.

The junior quarterback had seen his first real action for the Blue Hens, playing all but the first two series in their dramatic 24-20 win at Stony Brook.

“I’m just blessed,” said Caruso, smiling ear to ear. “My mom keeps saying that God’s time is perfect.

“I’ve been a backup for about three-and-a-half years. My mom just said, ‘Keep practicing, keep getting better.’ … I know when I had my chance to go in and show what I’ve got, it was the right time to do it. I was just going out there and playing ball and doing what I’ve been sent out to do.”

Whether Caruso’s performance on Saturday night was the start of something good remains to be seen, of course.

But the 5-foot-11, first-year transfer from Appalachian State has been listed as the starter for Delaware’s home game against William & Mary (0-2 CAA, 2-3 overall) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Hens are 1-1 in the CAA, 3-2 overall.

Coach Danny Rocco pulled third-year starter Joe Walker after two three-and-outs on the Hens’ first two series against Stony Brook.

J.P. Caruso has only been with the Blue Hens since June. Coach Danny Rocco said one of the reasons the newcomer didn’t get more playing time early in the season was because of his grasp of the offense’s terminology.

Rocco is the first to admit that Caruso’s stats in the game were pretty “pedestrian”: 7-of-14 passing for 80 yards with one touchdown and one interception; nine carries for 65 yards.

“But he was a spark,” said Rocco. “And he did bring an element of confidence and excitement into the game. He made enough plays to give us the opportunity to win.”

“He showed us a lot,” said junior running back Kani Kane. “He surprised me. He came out striking it — throwing the ball, running the ball. I like it.

“He definitely gave us a spark. … They didn’t know about J.P. so I think that kind of surprised them, too.”

Caruso has only been with the Hens since June. Rocco said one of the reasons the newcomer didn’t get more playing time early in the season was because of his grasp of the offense’s terminology.

Rocco said Caruso wasn’t always relaying every word needed for the play call to his teammates. But Rocco said it wasn’t until he met with Caruso on Monday morning that he realized the Florida native had never played for a team that huddled before.

Caruso, who wears a wrist band with the plays, was used to plays being signaled in from the sidelines to the whole offense.

“He made the comment to me, ‘Coach, I’ve never been in a huddle,’” said Rocco. “I knew they (Appalachian State) were spread, no huddle. But that’s kind of a weird starting place.

“I think he’s more comfortable (now). I think it’s the most comfortable he’s been. That’s part of the transitional process.”

The bottom line is that Delaware may very well play both quarterbacks, at least for a while. Indeed, Rocco considered switching back to Walker later in the game at Stony Brook.

Rocco also has a history of playing two QBs in the other schools he’s been with. One year, at Richmond, he had to choose between starting Michael Strauss and Michael Rocco — his nephew — who were both transfers from Virginia. Rocco ended up picking Strauss.

“So you want to talk about a guy who’s had to deal with some definitive quarterback controversy, I mean it was me,” Rocco said good-naturedly.

So far, Rocco said both Walker’s and Caruso’s reaction to the situation has been great.

Blue Hen cornerback Malcolm Brown defends a pass on Stony Brook’s last drive.

“I feel like we’ve got two guys who are highly-committed to our program and highly-committed to winning,” said Rocco. “If you were a neutral observer in our locker room after the game, and you were just watching the student-athletes celebrate, Joe Walker was celebrating as much as anybody. I appreciated that and I appreciated his attitude here moving forward.

“No matter what side of the fence you end up being on, you need two quarterbacks to be ready to play.“

OL struggling

Despite the victory, Delaware’s offensive line really struggled against Stony Brook.

Neither Caruso or Walker had much time to throw in the game.

“Our offensive line played horribly Saturday night,” Rocco said on Monday. “Coach (Blaine) McCorkle’s been with me a decade. … I did not like what I saw.

“Everybody wants to pin it on this or pin it on that or push it over here. Well, we didn’t block anybody. If we start blocking people, our offense will get better.”

Jarmon catching on

Jamie Jarmon made one of Saturday’s biggest plays for Delaware, outjumping a Stony Brook defender to pull in a 23-yard TD pass from Caruso in the second quarter.

The Indian River High grad has caught a scoring pass in each of the last three games. He didn’t have any in his career before then.

“Right when I got free I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” said Caruso, who had to scramble out of the pocket on the scoring pass. “I saw Jamie. Jamie’s a heck of a player.

“It wasn’t as good a throw as it was a catch. I threw it up there and it was a 50-50 ball. I got lucky on that play that Jamie came down with the ball. No one practices harder than Jamie, I promise you that. … Jamie deserves that. He went up and got the ball. That’s what he does — he does it practice, he does it every single day. There’s never an off day with Jamie.”

Extra points

Former star receiver/kick returner Eddie Conti will be the new color analyst on Delaware radio broadcasts. He’s replacing Matt Janus, who’s going to start working on CAA Game of the Week broadcasts. … Linebacker Troy Reeder (defense) and kicker Frank Raggo (special teams) were named CAA Players of the Week. Reeder had 12 tackles while Raggo hit a 50-yard field goal … Another former Blue Hen star, safety Mike Adams, is going to be at Saturday’s game as the honorary captain. He’s available because his current team — the Carolina Panthers — are playing on Thursday night. … Delaware was the sixth team among schools receiving votes in Monday’s Stats FCS poll. Stony Brook, which was No. 23, is now receiving votes, two places ahead of the Hens. … Junior offensive lineman Justin Farinella has been moved to defense while linebacker Armen Ware has been switched to the defensive line.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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