Hens stage 2nd half rally, shock No. 23 Stony Brook 24-20

The Hens’ Kareem Williams eyes yardage downfield against Stony Brook. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook sports information)

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — For 30 minutes, Delaware was heading nowhere.

The Blue Hens’ offense was scuffling enough that coach Danny Rocco changed quarterbacks.

And Delaware’s usually-tough defense was playing soft.

In short, trailing No. 23 Stony Brook by 13 points at halftime, there was no reason to believe that Delaware had a comeback left in it.

But, seemingly out of nowhere, the Hens ran off the final 17 points of the contest to stun the Seawolves, 24-20, in a Colonial Athletic Association football matchup on Saturday night in LaValle Stadium.

The game ended with Stony Brook (3-1 CAA, 4-2 overall) facing a fourth-and-13 at the Delaware 18. But, just as QB Joe Carbone tried to scramble out of the pocket, he was gang-tackled by linemen John Nassib, Blaine Woodson and Bilal Nichols at the 19.

The Hens went sprinting off the field in celebration after the stop with just 26 seconds left. Delaware (1-1 CAA, 3-2) just had to take a knee to polish off its first road upset of a top 25 team since 2013.

UD switched to J.P. Caruso at quarterback in the first half. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook sports information)

“Oh man, I’ve got so many emotions running through my head,” said quarterback J.P. Caruso, who entered the contest on the third series of the night. “I’m so proud of this team, so proud of these coaches for believing in me.

“This is the best feeling in the world right now,” said the Appalachian State transfer, who was all smiles. “I’m so happy. But we’ve got a long way to go.”
“I can’t even express how I’m feeling right now,” said junior cornerback Malcolm Brown. “A win like this, I think, is pivotal for this team. Hopefully we can use this as some momentum to spark us the rest of the year.

“But the emotions that I’m feeling right now — and the emotions that are in this locker room right now — I can’t even explain.”

Brown made the play that seemed to swing momentum in Delaware’s favor.

With the Hens trailing 20-10 in the third quarter, linebacker Troy Reeder stripped a Stony Brook ballcarrier after a short run. The fumble landed in Brown’s hands.

After managing to elude a Seawolf tackler and still stay inbounds, the junior cornerback then just had to sprint the rest of the 45-yard return for the touchdown with 4:04 left in the third quarter. Brown also said linebacker Anthony Jackson made a key block on the return.

“I did the easy part,” Brown said with a smile. “I saw it in the air. … I knew it could be a big play if I was to score. I knew it could change the game.
“The defense needed it and I was the person there at the time. It was a big play.”

When the Hens’ defense gave its offense the ball right back, Delaware marched 80 yards on seven plays for the winning touchdown.

Junior running back Kani Kane, the Sussex Tech High grad, broke off a 32-yard run to the Stony Brook six. Then, on the next play, Kane (7 carries-57 yards) took the ball around left end and fought his way to the pylon, just breaking the plane for the six-yard touchdown run that gave Delaware its 24-20 advantage.

“I was waiting all game,” said Kane. “I had an opportunity to take it and I took it.”

The Seawolves had three more possessions with a chance to pull off their own comeback. The Hens forced punts on the first two drives.

Delaware punter Nick Pritchard’s 60-yard punt then pinned Stony Brook back its own nine with 3:12 and one timeout remaining.

Stony Brook almost drove the length of the field, reaching the Delaware 15 with 47 seconds and no timeouts left.

The Hens hit a Seawolf runner for a three-yard loss on first down before two incompletions set up the fourth-down stop.

The shutout second half was redemption for the Hens’ defense, which struggled in the first half in allowing Stony Brook to build a 20-7 lead.

“It was really the only half this year that I thought we were soft on defense,” said Rocco. “And I called them out in the locker room at halftime. I made it very clear that what I just witnessed was 100-percent unacceptable.

“I told them after the game that two of the most important things that we have to do in life and football is you’ve got to be able to respond. Our team responded in the second half. And you’ve got to be able to finish. We finished in a big way here today.”

Rocco pulled starting QB Joe Walker after the Hens went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions of the game.

Caruso then gave Delaware an immediate spark when he found Jamie Jarmon for a 23-yard scoring pass to tie the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter. Caruso got away from a few pass rushers, rolled to his right and found Jarmon, who made a leaping catch in the end zone.

But the momentum was short-lived.

The Seawolves needed just five plays to drive 65 yards for a TD to back the lead at 14-7. Stony Brook then added a 55-yard scoring march just before halftime to take a 20-7 lead into halftime.

It was far from a perfect performance for Caruso. He completed 7-of-14 passes for 80 yards with the TD and an interception.

Caruso did show some quickness, running for another 65 yards on nine carries.

After the contest, Rocco said he and his coaches will just keep evaluating the quarterback situation and that Walker is still very much in the picture.

“He (Caruso) was a little more decisive when he decided to pull the ball and run it,” said Rocco. “Obviously, he has a lot of work to do. He made some significant mistakes — really almost to the point that I considered going back to Joe.”

Following Saturday’s win, though, Caruso was all smiles. A backup at Appalachian State, he felt like he’d waited a long time for a night like this.

“We weren’t playing smart football in the first half,” said Caruso. “In the second half we came together and said, ‘You know what? Let’s do something.’

“In the second half, we showed that we’re not a soft team. We’re a team that fights for each other. We’re all brothers. We’ll fight for the man right next to us. That’s what we did in the second half.”

Extra points

A blocked PAT kick by linebacker Colby Reeder after Stony Brook’s last TD ended up being huge at the end, when the Seawolves couldn’t kick a field goal to tie. … Nichols also got a piece of a missed 36-yard field goal attempt by the Seawolves. … A week after hitting a school-record 55-yard field, Frank Raggo hit a 50-yarder on Saturday. … Kareem Williams ran for a team-high 75 yards on 16 carries. … Safety Nassir Adderley and Troy Reeder each had a game-high 12 tackles. … Before he left the game, Walker became the 18th player in UD history with 3,000 yards of total offense. … The Hens are home the next two weeks, starting with a 3:30 p.m. game against William & Mary on Saturday.

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