Hens to end season against Villanova

 

Blue Hens quarterback Joe Walker. (File photo)

Blue Hens quarterback Joe Walker. (File photo)

NEWARK — There’s always a sense of finality to the last game of any season.

That’s especially true for seniors.

But these are unusual times around the Delaware football program.

With the school in the midst of hiring a new coach, there’s a lot of uncertainty for everyone in the program as the Blue Hens (2-5 CAA, 4-6 overall) close the season by hosting No. 13 Villanova (5-2, 7-3) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic).

Delaware has only nine seniors, who will be honored before the contest.

Clearly, though, there’s no guarantee that any of the current coaches will be back next fall. Most of the current players were recruited by them.

“We love all our staff,” said junior defensive tackle Grant Roberts. “We definitely want to send them out with a win. Regardless of what happens, we all want to win this game. We have so many reasons to.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of motivation for the Hens.

Along with the coaching situation, Delaware has lost its last four meetings with the rival Wildcats — several in heart-breaking fashion. An upset loss to the Hens could knock Villanova out of the Division I FCS NCAA playoffs.

It’s also the 50th meeting in the Battle of the Blue rivalry, which the Wildcats lead 27-21-1.

And, on top of that, it will be Delaware’s last meeting with Villanova’s 30th-year coach Andy Talley, who is retiring after the season.

“This is the Super Bowl for us this year,” said sophomore tight end Owen Tyler. “This is the game we’ve been looking forward to all year, no matter what. Every game is the biggest game of the year but this is the biggest game of the year, definitely.

“It’s nice to go out with a win, especially against Nova. It would heal some of the heartbreaks we’ve had this year.”

Interim coach Dennis Dottin-Carter, who has led the Hens to a record of 2-2, acknowledges that Saturday’s game is a little different.

But he also said this group doesn’t need a whole lot of motivation to play hard. Delaware’s players have proven that by the way they’ve performed for the last month, he said.

The Hens hung with No. 8 Richmond for much of the game last Saturday before falling, 31-17.

“They’re football players, I don’t think the uncertainty is even in their minds right now,” said Dottin-Carter. “They want to win. They’re competitors. They’re going to go out and have a great week of practice like we’ve done the last few weeks.

“They’re going to go out on Saturday and give everything that they’ve got for each other. … The goal is to leave Tubby Raymond Field with a ‘W.’ … They want to end as winners.”

Walker airs it out

Like with any starting quarterback, Joe Walker has been the lightning rod for any of the Hens’ passing-game problems.

Fans are quick to blame the redshirt sophomore, who’s in his second year as a starter.

Dottin-Carter says that criticism isn’t always fair. Against Richmond, Walker threw for a career-high 182 yards, going 11-for-18 with two interceptions.

“He’s still growing, he’s a sophomore,” said Dottin-Carter. “It’s a tough position. When you’re the quarterback, you’re expected to play well. You get a lot of the blame when the team isn’t winning.

“But he needs a lot of help — just like every quarterback around the country needs a lot of help. Joe works his butt off. He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s continued to improve on a daily basis, on a weekly basis.”

Tyler agrees that Delaware’s issues with the passing game go well beyond one player. The Hens are ranked 120th out of 122 FCS teams in passing at 95.4 yards per game.

“It’s impossible to put the blame on one guy,” said Tyler. “He (Walker) works as hard as anyone on and off the field. We’ve got to catch the balls that he does throw well. We’ve got to get open, we’ve got to run routes for him. It can’t be one person, it’s a mix of everybody.”

Jarmon catches on

Jamie Jarmon has had some tough moments as a receiver this fall.

In both of Delaware’s two season-opening wins this season, the former Indian River High quarterback got behind the secondary only to drop sure-touchdown passes.

So it was easy to see how excited Jarmon’s teammates were when the sophomore pulled in a 43-yard pass against Richmond. He finished with three catches for a career-high 84 yards.

“He’s a focused young man,” said Dottin-Carter. “You talk to him and his face is almost always the same — good or bad, it doesn’t matter. He came off the field after he caught the ball, he didn’t smile. He was stone-faced as normal.

“He’s a very likeable young man. Quiet but determined. To see a young man like him have success always makes you feel good. After he had those drops early on, you always root for him to do well, especially in those situations.”

Extra points

Roberts is the older brother of Concord High star linebacker Avery Roberts, who is headed for Nebraska. … Despite missing three games and being limited by injuries in a few others, Wes Hills is still Delaware’s leading rusher with 728 yards this season. … Villanova’s Talley is 15-12 all-time vs. the Hens.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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