Former quarterback Walker shines as UD receiver in 27-10 victory over Cornell

Joe Walker

NEWARK — Joe Walker has been on the throwing end of plenty of deep passes in his Delaware football career.

But, now that he’s a receiver, the former Blue Hen quarterback admits that trying to pull in a long throw when you’re sprinting down the field can be pretty difficult.

“It’s really hard,” said Walker. “As you’re running full speed – you might not notice it — but sometimes your head’s just bobbling and your eyes are trying to focus on the ball. It is a little bit harder than it looks.”

The senior did a pretty good job of it on Saturday, however, pulling in several long throws from quarterback Pat Kehoe to spark the Blue Hens to a 27-10 victory over Cornell at Delaware Stadium.

Walker finished with a career-high 154 yards on just six catches — an average of 26.7 yards per reception — to become the first player in Delaware history with a 100-yard rushing, 100-yard receiving and 200-yard passing game on his career resume.

After the Hens (2-1) sputtered on their first couple possessions, it was the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Walker who out-jumped a Cornell defender to pull in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kehoe on the final play of the first quarter. The TD started a string of 27 unanswered points that put Delaware in control, 27-3, late in the fourth quarter against the Big Red (0-1).

Walker also had receptions covering 42, 39 and 41 yards in the contest.

“We were probably a little over-committed to it,” coach Danny Rocco said about throwing the ball deep. “But we got the result in the end. That’s a big part of it. If you’re going to want to be able to do something, you’ve got to commit yourself to doing it and you’ve got to let it play out.

“I don’t necessarily know that’s going to be the norm moving forward with that many deep shots. But, based on how we went into the game, that’s the way that I think we had to play the game. … In a lot of ways we changed the game today because of our ability to connect on some of those throws.”

Walker’s big afternoon was the first 100-yard game by a Blue Hen receiver since 2014 while the 154 yards were the most for a UD wideout since 2013.

“As a former quarterback, he kind of understands coverages,” said Kehoe. “He knows when we call a play that he has a shot at the route that he’s running. He does a great job creating seperation. He’s a big target to put it out there for.”

Considering he’s still so new to the position, Walker said he and Kehoe didn’t develop chemistry overnight.

“It wasn’t quick,” said Walker. “We developped it over the winter and summer. We worked day-in and day-out. We were able to get that connection down. It makes it look easier out on the game field but we really worked hard for that.”

Kehoe completed 14-of-29 yards for 254 yards with the one TD. That gives the first-year starter six touchdown passes against no interceptions so far.

Kehoe is now the first Delaware QB to throw for 200 yards in each of his first three starts.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior also had an impact running the ball. Kehoe gained 42 yards on eight carries — although he only netted 23 yards after sacks were figured in.

Five of Kehoe’s yards came on a touchdown run late in the second quarter that gave the Hens a 14-3 halftime advantage.

“We’ve been thinking about it, we’ve been talking about it,” Rocco said about running the ball with Kehoe. “We’ve toyed with it. But today we had some good concepts with some of our fly sweeps.

“You’re either handing the ball off to the edge with a speed player or you’re running a big quarterback up inside. Defensively you always have trouble defending that guy as a ball carrier because you don’t account for him.”

Delaware’s 27 points were more than enough for the Hens’ defense to work with.

Cornell’s only TD came on a nine-yard pass with 26 seconds remaining against Delaware’s backup defenders. The Hens had gone nine straight quarters without allowing a touchdown until then.

The Big Red finished with only 232 yards — 139 of which came on its first and last drives of the contest.

Delaware didn’t have any takeaways but did sack Cornell QBs four times for losses of 37 yards.

The Hens have a big week coming up as they head to North Dakota State next Saturday for its matchup with the No. 1-ranked Bison. North Dakota State has won six of the last seven FCS national championships.

Rocco, though, wasn’t interested in talking about the matchup just yet on Saturday.

“We’re going to stay in the moment,” he said. “I was proud to see us fight and get the win. We’ve got to take a step back here and get ourselves ready to go. We’re going to be really excited about our preparation this week.

“One day at a time and really embrace the process,” Rocco added.

Extra points

Jamie Jarmon had one catch for 14 yards, extending his streak to 18 straight games with a reception. … Kickoff specialist Jake Roth broke the school record for touchbacks. He now has 47 in his career. … Safety Malcolm Brown had a game-high 11 tackles with linebacker Troy Reeder adding eight. … Kani Kane had a game-high 65 yards on 18 carries. The Sussex Tech High grad ran three yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. … Frank Raggo added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter for Delaware’s final six points.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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