Hens stunned by previously winless Rhode Island 20-0

Blue Hen quarterback Joe Walker runs for a gain during Saturday’s shutout loss at Rhode Island. (URI sports information photo)

Blue Hen quarterback Joe Walker runs for a gain during Saturday’s shutout loss at Rhode Island. (URI sports information photo)

KINGSTON, R.I. — The big question for the Delaware football team this week was whether the young Blue Hens could take a care of a squad they were supposedly better than.

On Saturday, the results spoke for themselves.

One week after rallying to knock off William & Mary, the Hens fell flat on their face, getting shut out by previously winless Rhode Island, 20-0, in a Colonial Athletic Association matchup at Meade Stadium.

It was the first time Delaware (1-2 CAA, 2-4 overall) had gotten blanked by a conference opponent since Villanova in 1996. And it was just the second time the Hens were shut out by anybody in the span.

Even coach Dave Brock didn’t have an explanation for what happened.

“It’s frustrating, but we have go back to the drawing board and find a way to do things better,” said Brock, whose team has an open date next weekend. “We’ve taken some steps forward this season but we’ve also taken some steps back. We went backwards today and that surprised me. Our kids played hard, but our margin of error is not very big.”

The Hens did outgain the Rams (1-2, 1-5) by a 283-239 margin in total yards. But Delaware quarterback Joe Walker threw three interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — and the Hens also missed a pair of field goal attempts.

The 26-yard interception return by Tez Wilson in the third quarter helped sealed the upset for URI, which won for just the second time in its last 20 games..

Delaware had scored in 211 straight games vs. NCAA FCS opponents and in 156 straight games against conference opponents. The Hens were also shut out in last year’s season opener against FBS foe Pitt.

Walker ran for a team and career-high 76 yards but he hit on only 9 of 22 passes for 78 yards and was picked off three times, once for a URI touchdown and another time in the end zone. Two of the interceptions came after a UD receiver got his hand on the ball but tipped it into the hands of a defender.

The Hens matched their season average with 205 yards rushing, but 180 of them came in the opening half. Thomas Jefferson, coming off back-to-back 100-yard efforts, picked up 65 yards on the ground and caught three passes while Kareem Williams added 64 yards on the ground.

Delaware’s defense came up with a solid effort despite the setback. The unit allowed just 239 total yards, its best effort this season and the least amount allowed since giving up 221 to Rhode Island in a 28-13 victory last season at Delaware Stadium.

Sophomore middle linebacker Charles Bell led the effort with 11 tackles and was in on two sacks, but the UD defense could not cause a turnover against a team that had committed a league worst 15 entering the game.

Two interceptions and two missed field goals finished off a miserable half for the Blue Hens as Delaware headed into the lockerroom down 10-0. It marked just the second time since 2009 that the Hens were held scoreless in the first half — a span of 78 games.

Rhode Island’s Naiquan Thomas picked off Walker at the Delaware 29 to set up the first score of the game, a 27-yard field goal by Justin Rohrwasser with 2:46 left in the opening stanza. Delaware came back on its next possesion and drove to the Ram 28-yard line but Frank Raggo’s 45-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

Walker was picked off again, this time in the URI end zone, when his pass tipped off the hands of DeAndre Davis and into the hands of Ahkema Evans with 11:23 left in the second quarter. Delaware held and forced the Rams to punt but couldn’t take advantage.

After moving swiftly down to the URI 27-yard line, the drive stalled an another 45-yard field goal attempt by Raggo went left.

Rhode Island then drove 72 yards on nine plays and took a 10-0 lead into halftime as Cooper scored on a one-yard burst with just six seconds left in the half. URI got a big break on a 3rd-and-10 at the 21 when Delaware’s Mark Doe was called for pass interference in the end zone.

The penalty took the ball down to the six and Cooper scored two plays later.

The Hens fared no better in the second half as they gained just 79 total yards over the final 30 minutes and never got closer than the URI 45-yard line.

Extra points

Delaware freshman WR Vinny Papale caught his first career reception, an eight-yarder in the first half. … Redshirt freshman WR Tre Jones left the game in the opening series with an injury and did not return. … Delaware had won three straight and seven of the last eight over Rhode Island with the Rams’ only victory in that span a 38-34 at Meade Stadium in 2011. … The shutout marked the first time URI shut out Delaware since a 7-0 win in the first meeting in 1922. … All-American punter Eric Enderson averaged 45.8 yards on five kicks, including a 59-yarder and two that landed inside the URI 20-yard line.

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