Offense, defense shine as Hens rip Lafayette 37-0

Delaware defensive players Charles Bell (5), Sal Mauro (98) and Ray Jones (7) combine to tackle a Lafayette player. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

NEWARK — Danny Rocco has no interest in pitting his offense and defense against each other.

But the Delaware football coach realizes that one side’s perfomance has a big effect on the other.

“We’ve got to get the understanding that we complement each other,” said Rocco. “When I get on the offense hard, it’s because they’re not letting the defense off the hook. When I get mad at the offense it’s because they’re forcing the defense to have to go back out there.”

With that idea in mind, the Blue Hens played about as perfectly complementary game as a coach could ask for in dumping Lafayette, 37-0, on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium.

In beating the Leopards for the 14th straight time, Delaware (1-1) outgained Lafayette 414 yards to 118, limited the Leopards to minus-18 yards rushing, had a 22-8 edge in first downs and — maybe most impressively — the Hens held the ball for 38:31 compared to just 21:29 for the squad from Easton, Pa.

“I don’t know if I’ve actually seen that in a while for us,” Rocco said about the commanding edge in time of possession. “That was really good to see.”

Of course, Delaware needed just about any kind of victory after its disappointing two-point, season-opening loss to Rhode Island. With that contest played on a Thursday, the Hens had an extra-long wait to get another chance at a victory.

Delaware QB Pat Kehoe threw three TD passes in the first half against Lafayette on Saturday. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

“It was a very long week,” said junior quarterback Pat Kehoe. “After a loss, we had a sour taste in our mouth and we just wanted to get back out here.”

Kehoe had another good game in his second career start. The left-hander completed 18-of-28 passes for 279 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Probably the biggest mistake Kehoe made was getting stripped of the ball for a fumble when the Hens had it at the Lafayette 11 with a minute left in the first half.

Other than that, Kehoe became the first Delaware QB to throw for 200 yards in back-to-back games since 2014 while nine different players had a reception in a game for the first time since 2011.

“I’d say I felt a little more comfortable,” Kehoe said about making his second start. “We have a lot of weapons and my job is just to distribute the ball. We had a good game plan. We were comfortable with what we were doing. That’s what we were able to do — get the ball out of my hands and just let those guys on the edge make plays.”

Blue Hen receiver Vinny Papale pulls in a 15-yard touchdown catch while keeping his feet inbounds in the first half. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

Three different players caught scoring passes: Vinny Papale (4 catches-74 yards), Charles Scarff (4-51) and Bryce De Maille (1-7).
Papale’s 15-yard TD reception was particularly impressive as he caught it along the sidelines and somehow stayed inbounds. The touchdown, which was reviewed, gave Delaware a 21-0 lead with 11:38 left in the second quarter.

“You think you’re in but you don’t really know,” said Papale. “It happens so fast. But they made the right call.”

The Hens also ran the ball well with Kani Kane (17 carries-54 yards) and Khory Spruill (8-18) both scoring second-half TDs. It was sophomore DeJoun Lee, though, who ran for a game-high 93 yards on 11 first-half carries.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound former Army transfer, who sat out last season, gives Delaware a change of pace with his speed.

“He is so uniquely different than Kani and Khory,” said Rocco. “So if you’re out there playing defense and you’re defending a certain play — and we run it over and over and over — then all of a sudden another guy is carrying the ball, you have to defend the play differently.

“He (Lee) is a threat to break through every time he has the ball. Every time we get him blocked up, he’s going to get to that second or third level.”

Of course, it was Delaware’s defensive players who may have walked away the most satisfied after posting the Hens’ first shutout since last October.

Lafayette’s minus-18 rushing yards were the eighth lowest total allowed by a Delaware team.

Maybe most importantly was the fact that the Hens forced four turnovers after comiong up with just one against URI. Safety Nasir Adderley recovered a fumbled punt at the Leopards’ 31 to set up Delaware’s second TD before making a leaping interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

“We always pride ourselves on takeaways,” said Adderley. “We know how they can effect the game. If we can do that for our offense, it gives them a boost.

“No matter where we are on the field, our mindset is to get off the field and give the ball back to our offense.”

Extra points

Kicker Frank Raggo, who was 5-for-5 on PATs Saturday, has now hit 69 in a row to break the school record of 67 set by Sean Baner (2010-13). … Kehoe’s 279 passing yards were the most for a Delaware QB since Trent Hurley threw for 295 vs. JMU in 2014. … Sophomore quarterback Nolan Henderson, the former Smyrna High standout, saw his first coillegiate playing time in the fourth quarter. … Linebacker Troy Reeder had a team-high eight tackles and a forced fumble. … Delaware recorded a safety with 1:08 remaining when defensive linemen Frank Burton and Brandan Hall tackled a Lafayette ball carrier for a two-yard loss. … Freshman linebacker Johnny Buchanan had the Hens’ other interception.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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