Hens, Colgate have interesting football history

NEWARK — Pat Callaway said it’s probably about 50-50.

The senior linebacker guesses that’s the ratio of current Delaware football players who could tell you that Colgate was the team that the Blue Hens blanked in the 2003 NCAA I-AA football national championship game.

“The older guys probably know that they played in 2003 because we have pictures hanging up everywhere in the offices about playing Colgate and winning 40-0,” said Callaway. “(But) I think most of us were in elementary school when that game happened so I don’t think it’s a big discussion.”

For Delaware fans, though, playing Colgate again on Saturday will no doubt bring back some fond memories of the Hens’ national championship season in ’03. Delaware (1-1) hosts the Raiders (0-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

It will be the first time the two programs have met since that cold Friday night in Chattanooga, Tenn., when the Hens pulled away to a 40-0 victory in the title game.

First-year Colgate head coach Dan Hunt certainly remembers that ’03 showdown. He was an offensive assistant coach for the Raiders that year.

That contest was the last time Colgate was shut out.

“It will always be special,” said Hunt. “Whenever you catch Delaware in crossover film or whenever you see them, you can’t help but think back to that game and that season.

“I know that our alums, it’s a big game for them. It’s a big game around here.”

Delaware has won all five matchups with Colgate. The first four were played between 1977 and ’82. The Hens’ 20-13 victory in 1982 was in the I-AA quarterfinals.

But, for a lot of Blue Hens fans, Delaware’s 21-3 win in 1977 was their favorite. The Raiders were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the country before falling in a contest played in front of a sellout Delaware Stadium crowd of over 23,000.

“This is a program, it’s a great measuring stick,” Hunt said about the Hens. “Everyone knows it’s a great program. Everyone knows it’s a great environment to play in. Our kids will be excited about it.

“We know it’s a challenge. It’s a great way to say, ‘Hey, where are we as a program?’”

Just get him the ball

Michael Johnson had to smile when he was asked the question.

Yes, the senior receiver likes the different ways Delaware has for getting him the ball.

“I like having the ball in my hands,” said Johnson. “So any time I get the ball in my hands, I’m a happy football player.”

The Hens’ 27-9 victory over Delaware State was a good example of Johnson’s versatility. He finished with a team-high 186 all-purpose yards.

That total included 84 yards on kickoff returns, 67 yards receiving, 28 yards running and seven on punt returns.

Colgate’s Hunt definitely took notice.

“Probably the scariest way he touches the ball is returning kicks,” said Hunt. “You can tell that he’s a playmaker. … But you can’t put too much of your defense to stop Michael because then (tight end) Nick (Boyle) is going to hurt you. Then watching the numbers that (running back) Jalen (Randolph) had on Sunday, it makes it hard to put too much attention on just one guy.”

Delaware has started lining the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Johnson up behind center and having him run the ball out of the wildcat formation. That’s fine with Johnson, who played some quarterback in high school.

“I love it,” he said. “Any time I can get back there and just feel like I’m in command of the offense, I’m happy with it. … If I could throw a pass or throw a touchdown, that would be great. If I could run for a touchdown, score on special teams, or score a receiving touchdown – whatever I have to do to help this team win, I will do.”

Young and the restless

For a lot of Delaware’s players, Sunday’s game was a new experience.

Coach Dave Brock said that 12 of 23 defenders played their first real game in Delaware Stadium on Sunday.

At linebacker alone, four of the Hens’ top six players are freshmen.

Seniors David Mackall and Callaway are the only non-freshmen in that group.

“Coming in Saturday to the locker room, I just got the feeling like this is these guys’ first game,” said Callaway. “I looked into their eyes and saw the excitement and the passion of playing their first home game in front of their home fans. It was a fun time.

“I saw those guys come in on their official visits (in high school) and now they’re playing in Delaware Stadium. It’s definitely a lifetime memory I’ll have.”

So far, the youngsters seem to be holding their own. True freshman linebacker Donte Raymond has a team-high 12 tackles, one more than Callaway.

Delaware has 10 first or second-year freshmen among its top 22 defensive players.

“They’re a pretty confident bunch,” said Callaway. “They have a lot to learn but they’re excited to come in and work every day. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them progress and become better football players`.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached

at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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