Hens drop three in a row with loss against Maine

 

Campbell Delaware running back Wes Hills breaks away on a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on Saturday.Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

Campbell Delaware running back Wes Hills breaks away on a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter on Saturday.Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Wes Hills didn’t care that he had just had one of best rushing games in Delaware football history.

The talented junior running back didn’t care that he had almost single-handily willed the Blue Hens to a win on Saturday afternoon.

No, Hills only cared that his last-minute fumble helped give Maine a crushing 28-21 victory over the Hens in a Colonial Athletic Association football game at gloomy Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Hens were driving for a potential game-winning field goal — indeed Hills looked like he might have a big gain on the play — when he had the ball stripped out of his hand.

The ball bounced away from Hills and into the hands of Maine linebacker Austin Brown who scooped up the fumble and sprinted 62 yards for the winning touchdown with just 56 seconds left.

So no, Hills was despondent despite the fact that he’d just run for 242 yards and a pair of TDs on 24 carries. That was the fourth-highest rushing total in school history.

“Someone got their hand in there,” a subdued Hills explained to reporters. “I didn’t have it high and tight and you guys know the outcome.

“But, first things first,” he continued. “I’m taking full responsibility for this loss. It’s my fault. I’m putting it all on me. It’s not on the coaches — fans, it’s not on the coaches — it’s on me. And, I promise you, it won’t happen again.

“I couldn’t care less about the numbers,” said Hills. “All I want is to win and that’s not what we did tonight.”

The loss was the third in a row for Delaware (0-2 CAA, 2-3 overall) and certainly makes an NCAA FCS playoff berth seem even further away.

“Certainly a brutal way to lose a game,” said Blue Hen coach Dave Brock. “I feel for the kids in that locker room. … We didn’t play well all the time but I thought they played really hard. … Certainly it was a bad way to lose a game. This is a shot in the gut for sure.”

On the other hand, because of a tough early schedule, Delaware knew that Maine (1-1 CAA, 2-3 overall) was better than its record.

So when Hills galloped away on a 61-yard scoring run to tie the game at 21-21 with 5:01 left, the Hens felt pretty good about themselves.

And when the Black Bears missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt with 2:05 remaining, Delaware had a genuine chance to pull out the victory.

Thanks to a 27-yard run and then a 14-yard catch by Hills, the Hens eventually reached the Maine 40. But with Hills heading for what looked like a good hole on the left side, the ball popped loose.

“The ball was on the ground and I just picked it up and tried to do what I could do with it,” said Maine’s 6-foot, 235-pound Brown. “My teammates really did a great job blocking downfield.”

“Wes didn’t lose that game,” said Brock. “We should have done a lot of different things. We had many, many different opportunities. No game is defined by one play.

“Wes is a standup guy. He’s an exceptional player and a better person.”

After the Bears took the lead, Delaware had one last chance to tie the game. With no timeouts, quarterback Joe Walker (6-for-16, 74 yards) completed two passes covering 44 yards to the Maine 29 with just four seconds on the clock.

But Walker’s desperation heave into a crowd of players in the end zone bounced harmlessly away on the final play.

The Hens were a one-dimensional team offensively again on Saturday. They didn’t gain their first passing yards until there were just 12:17 left in the game.

Still, Delaware’s running game looked like it might be enough.

The Hens were able to march 70 yards on just six running plays to take a 14-13 lead on Hills’ 17-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left before halftime. Delaware finished with 319 yards on the ground, outgaining the Black Bears, 393 yards to 375 overall.

Maine, on the other hand, was limited to just 68 rushing yards. Instead, the Bears rode the passing of QB Dan Collins, who was 21-of-33 for 307 yards with three TDs.

Brock said Delaware’s pass defense didn’t get the job too many times. A blown coverage led to a 60-yard TD pass for Maine in the second quarter.

“They made a lot of contested catches, they made a lot of really good plays,” Brock said about the Black Bears. “(But) we looked out of sorts a little bit. We got turned around a lot. I’d have to watch the film to see why that was. … We were there but we weren’t in a position to compete for the ball a number of times.”

Likewise, Brock admitted that the Hens’ passing game just isn’t good enough. Delaware came into Saturday ranked 120 out of 122 FCS teams with an average of only 80.3 passing yards per game.

“We certainly don’t throw the ball well enough,” said Brock. “I mean that’s an understatement.

“We probably have to look at doing things a little bit different. But we’re not open at times, we miss throws. We’ve got to a better job, there’s no question about it. If you can’t throw the ball, you’re going to struggle to win.”

Extra points

Hills is the first Blue Hen to have two 200-yard rushing games in the same season since Omar Cuff in 2007. … Jalen Randolph scored Delaware’s first TD on a one-yard run in the opening quarter but had just 21 yards on eight carries. … Linebacker Charles Bell had a team-high 13 tackles. … Cornerback Tenny Adewusi pulled in a second-quarter interception. … Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols collected two of Delaware’s three sacks. … Cornerback Justin Watson, who wasn’t scheduled back yet from an arm injury, saw action on Saturday. … Vinny Papale had a team-high two catches for 37 yards. … The Hens play a 3:30 p.m. game at William & Mary next Saturday.

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