Frustrated Hens suffer 3rd straight loss 21-17 to Albany

Will Knight runs down the sidelines on a 55-yard pass reception in the first half. Delaware sports information

NEWARK — For the third straight week, Delaware could have won a football game.

This time, the argument could be made, the Blue Hens should have won a football game.

But they didn’t.

And that’s what made Delaware’s third-straight loss, a 21-17 setback to Albany in a CAA game at Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon, so hard to swallow.

The fact that the Hens (2-4 CAA, 4-6 overall) now have to win their final two games just to finish at .500 is icing on the cake.

Probably Delaware’s biggest regret was that it twice had the ball at the Great Danes’ one yard line but came away with only three points to show for it. That came back to haunt the Hens when Albany (4-2 CAA, 6-4 overall) drove 73 yards to score the winning touchdown with 10:54 remaining.

Quarterback Jeff Underfuffler drilled a 13-yard scoring pass to Jerah Reeves for the only points of the second half.

“It’s very frustrating for all of us,” said UD coach Danny Rocco, who has never finished with a losing record in his 14 seasons as a head coach.

“I certainly expressed that frustration with our team post game. I certainly called out everybody — including myself — in that post-game conversation. I don’t think it’s fair to point the loss at one or two plays in the game. Holistically we’re not playing well enough to win. We’re doing things now that bad football teams do.”

The first touchdown that got away from Delaware came at the end of the first half.

With the contest tied, 14-14, QB Nolan Henderson found his former Smyrna High teammate, Will Knight, along the sidelines for a 55-yard gain to the Albany 23.

A DaJoun Lee seven-yard run later gave the Hens a second-and-goal from the one. But Delaware lost a total of three yards on a pair of running plays before settling for Jake Roth’s 22-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

“Our inability to score a touchdown just before the half was something that was concerning to me,” said Rocco. “I knew that they (the Great Danes) were good down there on the goal line.”

QB Nolan Henderson ran for 72 yards on 14 carries in Saturday’s game.

The Hens, who out-gained Albany 366 yards to 362, kept moving the ball well in the second half.

Delaware had the ball at the Great Danes’ 20 when Henderson rolled out and found receiver Thyrick Pitts running parallel to the goal line at the one. Just when it looked like Pitts might fight his way into the end zone, Albany knocked the ball loose where Kareem Gibson recovered the fumble at the three.

The Hens never came close to scoring again.

Delaware had three possessions after Albany took the lead but managed just one first down all told, on a Henderson 21-yard run. The sophomore QB went a combined 0-for-6 on those three drives as the Hens never got anything going.

“I did feel very confident that we were going to be able to drive the ball and score there late in the game,” said Rocco. “We just weren’t able to do it. … In the biggest moments, they made the biggest plays. The end of the game certainly belonged to them.
“The thing I said in the locker room, offensively, there are moments when we looked extraordinarily good on offense. We have rhythm, we have balance. … and then other series we don’t even look like the same team. That’s very frustrating, very disappointing.”

Henderson completed only 8-of-17 passes for 141 yards with a four-yard scoring pass to freshman receiver Jourdan Townsend. He did run the ball 15 times for 72 yards.

Knight finished with 79 yards on 14 carries while adding another 61 yards on a pair of receptions. The freshman tied the game at 14-14 on a 28-yard TD burst in the second quarter.

“They’re a great defense, but I don’t know if much of it wasn’t us shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Henderson. “Penalties, taking a sack here and there, not completing a ball, and then obviously, the turnovers. I think we had plenty of opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage of them.

“The defense played great. We didn’t really hold up our end of the bargain in the second half.”

Defensively, Delaware gave up two big pass plays early — a 41-yarder and a 64-yarder. But the Hens also allowed just one TD over the final 38 minutes and limited the Great Danes to 12 points less than their per-game average.

And while Underfuffler threw three touchdown passes, he also completed 13-of-23 passes for only 176 yards — 90 yards under his average.
Delaware forced Albany to punt six times.

“A lot of us, this is our first time playing each team,” said sophomore safety Kedrick Whtehead (Middletown), who had a game-high 12 tackles. “So we’re just learning, taking one game at a time, hoping to grow and get better every week.”

Henderson said he doesn’t expect Delaware to pack it in just because its record isn’t what it wanted.

“We’re all football players and I think, no matter what your record is when you come out on Saturday, you only know one speed,” he said. “You only know one effort level. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I know we have a good locker room and the guys in it, they’re not thinking about anything other than going out Saturday and winning a game.”

Extra points

The Hens’ 17-14 advantage marked their first halftime lead since their season-opening win over Delaware State. … Lee ran for 69 yards on 11 carries as well as adding a 41-yard kickoff return. … Safety Noah Plack had nine tackles with a pair of pass breakups. … Saturday’s win was just Albany’s third against Delaware in the nine-game all-time series.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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