Hens have to deal with brother of former UD star

The Hens’ Nassir Adderley was named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week after this 92-yard kickoff return for a TD against New Hampshire. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — It’s been over a decade since there was a Flacco playing quarterback in Delaware Stadium.

But you can understand if Delaware football fans won’t be cheering for this Flacco on Saturday afternoon.

Tom Flacco, the younger brother of former Blue Hen star, Joe, will be the star attraction when No. 10 Towson (4-0 CAA, 6-1 overall) comes to Newark on Saturday for a homecoming showdown with No. 21 Delaware (3-1 CAA, 5-2 overall).

A first-year transfer from Rutgers, the younger Flacco is having a breakout season for the Tigers.

The 6-foot-1, 208-pound junior leads the Colonial Athletic Association in total offense (355.9 yards), passing yards per game (282.3 yards) and is fourth in rushing (73.6 yards). Those kind of numbers are why Flacco was recently named to the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top offensive player in FCS Division I.

While Flacco was offered a scholarship by Delaware when he came out of high school four years ago, he chose not to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Tom Flacco

“You recognize that, as athletes, we’ve got to kind of create our own path,” said Blue Hens’ coach Danny Rocco. “For all the different things that go into transferring, you do want to be able to create your own identity. I definitely see the definitive split in the decision that might have been made.”

On the other hand, the younger Flacco did follow Joe’s path at first when he spent his first two college seasons at Central Michigan. The Chippewas’ offensive coordinator at the time was Kirk Ciarrocca, who was Delaware’s OC when Joe played for the Hens in 2005-07.

Ciarrocca is now the offensive coordinator at Minnesota

While his job this week is to try to slow down Flacco, Rocco said he can’t help but like what he sees from the 23-year-old.

“I’ve been very impressed with Tom and his football IQ,” said Rocco. “He makes good decisions. He’s like a coach on the field. And then his athleticism is kind of the bonus to the whole thing.

“This is definitely a quarterback that can run — and not a runner playing quarterback. That’s how I see it. … I’m a huge fan of our conference. When we have guys that are able to get national recognition, I’m very, very excited about that.”

Considering that the Tigers lead the CAA in both scoring offense (40.3 points) and total offense (482.9 yards), Towson is much more than a one-man team, however. The Tigers have won five games in a row while scoring at least 44 points in four of those five contests.

Delaware’s defensive players say they know they’re going to have their hands full on Saturday. But the Hens, who have won three games in a row, also say they’re excited about the challenge.

“It’s always exciting,” said senior safety Malcolm Brown. “I think the bigger the challenge, the more exciting it gets. It’s just another chance for our defense to make a stand against another really good football team.

“It’s exciting to go out there and play against guys you know who are going to give you a hard time.”

Jarmon out, Coleman in

Sophomore receiver Gene Coleman celebrates a catch against Elon. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Rocco said he doesn’t know when, or if, senior receiver Jamie Jarmon will be back on the field.

The former Indian River High star has a serious quad injury (in his thigh) that sidelined him on Saturday for the Hens’ win at New Hampshire.

“I feel badly for Jamie,” said Rocco.

But Jarmon’s injury gives sophomore Gene Coleman a chance to show what he can do. Coleman has six catches for 121 yards this season.

“I’ve liked Gene since the day he got here,” said Rocco. “I have been a huge Gene Coleman fan — in terms of his ability to make plays and his desire to compete and play hard. … He’s always kind of there when we need him.”

Coleman said he considers Jarmon to be like a big brother to him. He said the veteran has helped prepare him for this chance.

“The moment Jamie found out he wasn’t going to play, he texted me and told me to take advantage of all the opportunities,” said Coleman. “I’m trying to play for him. He’s like an older brother to me. I love him. I’m just trying to hopefully get him a chance to come back and run in the playoffs with us.”

A happy return

On Monday, the Hens were still getting a kick out of Nasir Adderley’s unexpected 92-yard kickoff return against New Hampshire.

The play earned the senior safety the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

With Delaware leading 31-14, the Hens put their ‘hands’ team out for a kickoff in case the Wildcats tried an onsides kick. That meant there was no blocking set up.

But UNH kicked the ball deep. Adderley caught the ball and started up the sideline where he had a big collision with a Wildcat defender at the 25.

Everyone stopped on the hit. Adderley, though, stayed upright and inbounds.

He simply started running again, cut back across the field and outraced a couple UNH players to the end zone.

The return was named the day’s top play on ESPN’s SportsCenter and was also featured on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

“I don’t want to make it sound like it was just one man,” said Rocco. “But it kind of was. We might have got a random block along the way. … He just made an extraordinary play because he’s an extraordinary athlete.

“Now he’s in my ear about a lot of different things,” Rocco added with a smile. “He wants the ball more. I said, ‘Well, go intercept more passes.’”

Extra points

Linebacker Troy Reeder was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week. The senior had 12 tackles, a blocked punt, a fumble recovery and a sack in Saturday’s victory. … The Hens moved up three spots to No. 21 in Monday’s STATS FCS rankings. There’s four CAA teams ranked ahead of them. …. Starting QB Pat Kehoe didn’t play much of the fourth quarter against UNH after injuring his knee. But Rocco said Kehoe was cleared to return to the game if the Hens needed him. … Dover High grad Triston Harris, who saw action for Towson at quarterback last year, is out for the year with a knee injury. He’s a redshirt sophomore.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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