Hens excited for UNC trip

NEWARK — North Carolina is quite capable of embarrassing Delaware on Saturday.

The Tar Heels are big, fast, strong and deep.

So, naturally, the Blue Hens are thrilled about playing the game.Hens-Walker-Villanova

“It’s a big, college environment, in a big stadium, hopefully there’ll be a lot of fans,” said Delaware sophomore linebacker Charles Bell. “It’ll be jumping. It will be exciting.

“You get to play up another level,” he added. “We’re going to play as fast as we can and hopefully have a good game.”

When Delaware (1-2) faces North Carolina (2-1) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill, it will be the first time the two schools have met in football.

For years, UD has avoided playing these kind of games, where the smaller program gets a nice guaranteed check and the Division I FBS school gets an almost-guaranteed win.

But now Delaware has scheduled a game against an FBS school for the next several years.

Of course, it was just last fall that the Hens opened the season at Pittsburgh — and got crushed, 62-0. They were dumped by Navy, 51-7, the year before that.

These games usually go over big with the smaller-school’s fans, who get to take a nice road trip someplace new and see a major-college team play.

“I don’t know that there’s a lot of benefit to this particular game this year with the makeup of our roster,” said Delaware coach Dave Brock, who was a UNC assistant in 2005-06. “But that’s not here nor there. It’s the next game on the schedule.

“I think the guys are going to be fired up. It’s one of the most beautiful places you can play in the country. It’s a spectacular place. It’ll be a really good atmosphere. I think the players like to test themselves. I think the players enjoy it.

“You line up and you play. They’ve got 60 minutes and then you go get on a plane.”

With so many young players, many of the Hens will be playing in a big-time atmosphere for the first time in their careers. Starting quarterback Joe Walker is one of them.

“You just go out and play the best you can play,” said the redshirt freshman. “If you win, you get a bunch of media off of it. … I feel like guys are ready to go into this game. We’ll be prepared.”

Randolph out

Brock didn’t have any update Monday on starting running back Jalen Randolph, who missed much of the second half of Saturday’s 28-21 loss at Villanova.

The junior was on the sidelines with an ice bag on his left knee.

“He won’t play this week,” said Brock. “There’s nothing else I can tell you — or will tell you — other than he won’t play this week.”

Brock also said there may be other player(s) who will be sidelined on Saturday.

“I would assume there will be but I don’t know that for certain right now,” he said.

Randolph’s injury means Delaware has now lost its three most productive offensive players since preseason. That group also includes running back Wes Hills (foot) and receiver Jerell Harrison (arrest).

Together, those three players accounted for 2,310 yards rushing/receiving with 21 touchdowns last season.

Randolph is currently the team’s leading rusher with 150 yards on 40 carries. He’s also scored three of Delaware’s five touchdowns.

Sophomore Kareem Williams and redshirt freshman Thomas Jefferson will now man the top two running back spots. Eric Patton, the former St. Elizabeth High standout who switched from linebacker in preseason, is the next man on the depth chart.

Brock said after Saturday’s game that losing Randolph hurts much more than just on the field.

“I think, a lot of times, what the media sees and what the fans see is the ability level of the player on the field,” said Brock. “They don’t understand the impact that the individual person has in the locker room and on the team dynamic and how important a person he is to Delaware football.

“Yeah, he’s a good back, I’ll give you that. But he’s an incredible person. … These guys are battling like crazy for snaps and all he’s doing is trying to help them get better every day. To me it’s always harder to replace the great person than it it is a good player.”

Making progress

Probably Walker’s most memorable play against Villanova came in the fourth quarter.

Facing a third-and-13, the youngster scampered 16 yards for the first down, running through a Wildcat defender to get a few more yards at the end.

The drive culminated in a TD that gave the Hens a 21-14 lead.

“I planned to get a little physical after Coach Brock chewed me out about knowing what I have to get and knowing where you are on the field,” said Walker. “I was going to get as many yards as I can get.”

Despite the loss, the game was Walker’s best to date. It was his second straight start.

He completed 13-of-28 passes for 94 yards while having several balls dropped. Walker also ran for 48 yards and a TD on 17 carries.

“I felt like the game slowed down a lot,” said the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder. “It just comes with repetition and knowing the people you have around you to go to battle with.

“I feel like I got better. But I feel like I can be a lot better. I want to move forward and try to get the team to finish and start to win.”

Extra points

There was a play on one of Villanova’s scoring drives where it looked like the Wildcats might have fumbled with the Hens recovering. But the player was ruled down. “We certainly felt like the ball was out, there’s no question about that,” Brock said Monday. “(Defensive tackle) Grant (Roberts) had the ball in his possession long before five (Villanova’s Gary Underwood) hit the ground.” … FCS schools like Delaware are 5-80 vs. FBS programs this season. … The Hens are 5-6-1 all-time against ACC opponents. … Among the receivers that Brock coached at North Carolina was former NFL standout Hakeem Nicks.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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