Experience helps Hens, Beh grow more comfortable

Delaware offensive tackle Noah Beh (left) works against defensive end Armen Ware in a preseason practice. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Noah Beh was just looking at some game film of last year’s Delaware football game with Cornell.

The first thing he noticed was how little the Blue Hens’ lineup has changed since then.

But the biggest thing Beh said he could see was how much better the offense is playing now as a whole.

“Just watching myself and the ‘O’ line and the offense, it’s very different,” said Beh, a senior offensive tackle. “I just like how we’re playing now — faster. I like how we’re moving now.”

That’s good news for Delaware (1-1), which hosts Cornell (0-0) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

The Hens’ offense had something of a breakout game in Delaware’s 37-0 win over Lafayette on Saturday. Of course, with No. 1-ranked North Dakota State and the rest of their Colonial Athletic Association schedule waiting on the other side of the Big Red, Delaware’s players realize they better be getting better every week.

This is only Beh’s second season with the Hens after transferring from Penn State. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder, who started eight of 10 games he played in last fall, feels a lot more comfortable after settling in at right tackle.

Beh said there’s a lot to be said for being confident in yourself. He said that’s true for both himself and the offense as a whole in its second season with this coaching staff.

Danny Rocco

“This past week, Coach talked a lot about how we want to be believers,” said Beh. “When you have belief you can play fearless, confident and play freely. I’m seeing that a lot more. I feel that. Definitely, with this offense, there’s a lot more confidence this year — in a lot of areas.

“You can just see we know what we’re doing. It’s just reacting now instead of thinking.”

With an average of 28 points and 380.5 yards of offense per game, Delaware is still only in the middle of the pack in the CAA in both categories.

The Hens are clearly more balanced, though, after getting back-to-back 200-yard passing games for the first time since 2014. Delaware is averaging 240.5 yards through the air and 140.5 on the ground.

Of course, the one big difference in the offense is that junior Pat Kehoe is now the starting quarterback.

“Ultimately, we want to be a run-first team,” said coach Danny Rocco. “Defensively, you still have to deploy your personnel to stop the run. And, if you don’t, I think we’ll be very happy to run the football.

“If they start to overload (to stop the run), you’ve got to be able to do what we can now do. I think that’s the thing that’s bringing some optimism here moving forward.”

“You definitely want to be two-dimensional,” said Beh. “Last year, teams probably thought, ‘All right, they’re just going to run the ball.’ This year, we can do whatever. Teams have to prepare for that.”

Of course, there’s always room to improve. While the Lafayette game was better than the URI one, the Hens hope they’re not even close to reaching their ceiling offensively yet.

“We watched the film,” said Beh. “There was a lot of good stuff from the offense. Now we’re worried about the small technique things and, with offensive line play, the way we work together. We want to clean up everything we can and just attack this week with more purpose.”

Staying hungry

“After that (URI) loss we kind of took a step back and re-thought everything,” said linebacker Charles Bell. “We went out there and played as hard as we could.” Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

There’s no question that the Hens’ 21-19 season-opening loss to Rhode Island got his players’ attention.

“After that loss we kind of took a step back and re-thought everything,” said linebacker Charles Bell. “We went out there and played as hard as we could.”

But now the question is can Delaware keep its edge with underdog Cornell coming in on Saturday. The Hens dumped the Big Red, 41-14, last season in the first meeting between the two programs.

Rocco likes the idea of Delaware playing like it has a chip on its shoulder.

“I talk a lot about being a team … that is able to play with the attitude — the edge — of an underdog but yet with the confidence of a champion,” he said. “I think that’s what we did on Saturday.

“I do think that is the best formula, regardless of the opponent on your schedule and regardless of what other people would expect the outcome to be.”

QBs still in the picture

Rocco said he had hoped to get quarterback J.P. Caruso into the game with the first-team offense on Saturday.

By the time Rocco got a chance, though, the second team was already in.

“Before I put J.P. in, I pulled him aside and kind of had that conversation — ‘Do you want to go in if I put you in with the second offense,’” said Rocco. “He said, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ He’s been extraordinary through this whole process. We’re going to need J.P. to be ready to play.”

Caruso, who started six games last year, did see some action in the fourth quarter.

Former Smyrna High standout Nolan Henderson, a redshirt freshman, also saw his first collegiate action on Saturday.

“I think he’s progressing the way he needs to progress,” said Rocco. “He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability to throw the ball. He still has got to get bigger and stronger. But, I think the way we’re set up, he does still have time on his side.”

Extra points

Rhode Island (2-0), which dumped Albany, 45-26, on Saturday, was ranked No. 25 in Monday’s STATS FCS Division I poll. It’s the first time the Rams have been ranked since 2001 as well as the first time they’ve been 2-0 since 2005. … Delaware is listed among others receiving votes for the second straight week. … Kehoe is now second in the CAA with a passing efficiency of 173.8. He’s 30-of-50 for 481 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. … The Hens have had eight different ball carriers so far this season, but none of them have been seniors Thomas Jefferson or Kareem Williams — both career 1,000-yard rushers. Wiliams ran for 121 yards on 15 carries in last year’s win over Cornell with Jefferson adding 51 yards on 11 carries.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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