Hens enter bye aiming for new outlook after rout at No. 1 North Dakota State

Blue Hen running back Dajoun Lee is brought down during Delaware’s 38-10 loss at North Dakota State on Saturday. Delaware sports information photo/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Early in 2016, Danny Rocco brought his Richmond football team up to play Stony Brook.

The Spiders took one on the chin that day, falling to the Seawolves, 42-14.

But Richmond’s season didn’t end until three months later after they’d reached the NCAA FCS Division I quarterfinals and gone 10-4.

Rocco pointed out the fact on Monday because his current team, Delaware, just got thumped, 38-10, at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State on Saturday.

Danny Rocco

He needs the Blue Hens to keep things in perspective right now. Their season didn’t end with that setback.

“I do think that North Dakota State program right now is elite,” said Rocco. “To walk out of there like we did, we’ve got to be able to recognize that so we can move forward with purpose.”

With an open date this weekend, Delaware will have a lot of time to dwell on that loss. The Hens (0-1 CAA, 2-2 overall) don’t play again until they go to Richmond on Oct. 6.

With seven games remaining, all against Colonial Athletic Association foes, Delaware probably has to go at least 5-2 the rest of the way to have a shot at an FCS playoff berth. A 7-4 record last fall didn’t end the Hens’ seven-season playoff drought but they were at least strongly considered.

Of course even going 5-2 won’t be easy against CAA competition.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for a lot of us that are sitting at 2-2 or with a loss in the league,” said Rocco. “But I’ve been in the league for quite a while. I recognize that all you can really do is try to go through this thing one week at a time.

“You try to win a football game and then start stacking wins. I’ve certainly been on teams that have been able to do that. And last year’s team was able to do that. It certainly starts with one. Then you’ve got to be able to build from there.

“It’s a big challenge,” he added. “I do think our team is up for this challenge. … I do think these guys have what it takes to do it and do believe they’re committed to fighting that fight. But it’s going to be a daily battle and we certainly are going to have to play a lot better than we did in the early stages of the season.”

The one thing the Hens have going for them is they don’t have to face No. 2-ranked James Madison this season. The Dukes are considered pretty heavy favorites to win the CAA again this fall.

All that means is Delaware is very capable of beating — or losing — to any of the seven teams left on the schedule.

Only time will tell how the Hens’ experience in North Dakota will effect them the rest of the season.

“Well, we’ll find out,” Rocco said after Saturday’s game. “We at least know what it looks like and what level of expectation you have to have when you do line up against a team like this in this environment.

“I think teams tend to grow, mature, develop, get better with time — whether that’s throughout the season or throughout a certain timeline. But this is one of those standalone moments. We were not up to the moment.”

Hens vs. Big 10

Of course, with some of the programs Delaware is starting to schedule, the Hens are going to face some more really big challenges down the road.

Delaware announced on Thursday that it has scheduled a game with Rutgers for 2021. And that comes after UD scheduled a pair of future games with Penn State.

Rocco said on Monday that he’s OK with the Hens playing some major programs. But he’d also like to stay within the region.

“My philisophy has been that those games, to me, should be geographically important in terms of being in our recruiting area,” he said. “So Penn State certainly is in that area and Rutgers certainly is.

“I do thnk there is value in playing those games and being able to play against the best in these regions of our recruiting base. I feel goood about that. And I think Rutgers is a good one to get onto our schedule because of all the recruiting we do in New Jersey and Philadelphia and the I-95 corridor.”

Extra points

Every team in the CAA has at least one overall loss already. Rhode Island (2-0 in conference), which is the only team to play more than one CAA game, remains in first place. … QB Pat Kehoe dropped down to 10th in the CAA in passing efficiency (128.3) after throwing his first three interceptions of the season. … Delaware is minus-2 in turnover margin.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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