Hens crush Hornets 31-13: QB Kehoe stars as UD now 9-0 vs. instate rival

Delaware players congratulate quarterback Pat Kehoe after he ran a QB keeper for a touchdown against DSU at Delaware Stadium in Newark. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — It took nine games, but Delaware State finally did something it had never done against Delaware in football before.

The Hornets held a lead over the Blue Hens.

Unfortunately for DelState, that only seemed to get Delaware’s attention.

The 22nd-ranked Hens answered with 28 straight points after falling behind in the second quarter to eventually post a 31-13 victory over DelState before a Delaware Stadium crowd of 15,894 in the season opener for both teams on Thursday night.

The win gave Delaware a 9-0 all-time record in the matchup of the state’s only two FCS Division I football programs.

Senior quarterback Pat Kehoe completed 18-of-28 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns while also running 21 yards for a score.

Sophomore receiver Thyrick Pitts added six catches for 81 yards and a TD to earn the Nate Beasley Award as the game’s MVP.

“We just knew that we had to get it going,” said Kehoe. “We were executing but we weren’t finishing drives. We knew once we were able to break through and get in the end zone, we could take off from there.”

Delaware’s Drew Nickles tackles DSU’s Bryant Dallas in the first quarter.

With the two teams playing for the first time since 2017, the Hornets took a 6-3 advantage when Fidel Romo-Martinez booted a 30-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the second quarter.

But Delaware responded with a five-play, 64-yard scoring drive to take the lead right back. Kehoe faked a handoff on a sweep and ran 21 yards untouched for a touchdown that put the Hens up 10-6.

Then, after a 47-yard punt return by true freshman Jourdan Townsend set up Delaware at the DSU 33, the Hens found the end zone again. This time Kehoe used a play fake on a third-and-short and found senior fullback Owen Tyler for a 24-yard scoring pass.

It was only the second TD of Tyler’s career.

The Hens’ Pat Kehoe runs a QB keeper for a touchdown.

While the Hens’ missed the PAT, they still owned a 16-6 halftime lead.

“It was huge,” Kehoe said about scoring a pair of TDs before halftime. “You kind of feel the momentum shift, which was big for us, taking it into halftime and then coming back out and trying to play a better second half.”

Delaware kept adding to its lead in the second half. Jake Roth’s second field goal was followed by a 14-yard touchdown catch by Pitts.

Pitts made a nice play on the throw by Kehoe, wrestling the ball away from a DSU defender for the TD that pushed Delaware’s advantage to 25-6 going into the fourth quarter.

Former Smyrna High standout Nolan Henderson, the Hens’ No. 2 quarterback, got a chance to play for the entire fourth quarter. He lined up with his former Smyrna teammate, running back Will Knight, who was making his UD debut after transferring from Old Dominion.

Knight put up his first highlight-reel play as a Blue Hen, breaking off a 61-yard run late in the game. He finished with a team-high 68 yards on four carries.

UD reserve defensive back Brian Dennis scored his first career TD in the fourth quarter when he blocked a DelState punt and returned it 15 yards into the end zone. The special-teams TD stretched the Hens’ lead to 31-6.

The Blue Hens’ Chichi Amachi catches a pass as DSU’s D’Andre Blue-Eli defends in the first quarter.

Delaware finished with an advantage of 383-344 in total yards.

DSU’s Tylik Bethea threw his first career touchdown pass, a 10-yard strike to fellow freshman Bizzett Woodley with 3:20 left, ending a seven-quarter Hornet touchdown drought against the Hens.

When the two teams meet again, next season, the situation will be a little different. Next year they’re slated to play in the final game of the regular season.

“We’ll see them again next year in the last game of the season,” said DelState coach Rod Milstead. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Tonight, they were the better team again. I’ll tip my hat to coach (Danny) Rocco, he had his guys well-prepared.

“We need to put four good quarters of football together. Until we do that, things won’t be in our favor.”

Extra points

Townsend’s long punt return helped make up for a fumbled punt on his first collegiate return. … Henderson completed all four of his pass attempts for 17 yards while running five times for 20 yards. … Roth had an up-and-down game in his first contest as the Hens’ full-time place kicker. The senior made a pair of field goals but missed another one as well as missing one PAT and having two blocked.. … Delaware next opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule on Sept. 7 with a 7 p.m. game at Rhode Island.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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