Punchless Blue Hens suffer another defeat 17-6 to Albany

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Blue Hens linebacker Charles Bell tackles Albany QB D.J. Crook in Saturday’s game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

 

NEWARK — Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

Albany seemed to offer exactly what Delaware needed.

The Great Danes were a struggling football team with an unproductive offense and a defense that had trouble stopping anybody.

So when the Blue Hens managed just a pair of field goals in a 17-6 loss to Albany on homecoming Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium, it certainly felt like Delaware had hit rock bottom.

A week after getting shut out by Towson, the Hens (2-4 Colonial Athletic Association, 3-6 overall), went a second straight game without a touchdown. That’s the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since 1964 when they were shut out in back-to-back games by Buffalo and Temple.

Delaware’s 224 yards of offense were more than double its output a week ago but it was still hardly enough.

With two games remaining, the Hens are now guaranteed of the program’s fifth losing season since 2001.

“This isn’t how you’re supposed to play,” said coach Dave Brock. “It’s not how it’s supposed to look. It’s extremely frustrating. I’m certain it’s extremely frustrating for everybody who loves Delaware football, and I understand that.

“I think the kids are playing hard. … I’m sick for the players. I don’t think about it from my perspective. I think about the guys in that locker room and how hard they work and what they do and the amount of commitment they made. To come away with this result, it makes me sick.”

If there was a play that epitomized the Hens’ frustration on Saturday it was the back-breaker right before the end of the third quarter.

With Delaware clinging to a 6-3 lead, the Hens’ Diante Cherry tried to catch a punt inside his own five yard line. But the sophomore fumbled the ball and the Great Danes’ Cory Parker recovered it for a touchdown that put Albany (2-4, 3-6) ahead for good.

Delaware put the ball on the ground six times in the contest, losing three of the fumbles.

Brock said Cherry shouldn’t have even tried to field the punt so close to the goal line.

“Obviously the punt return is a catastrophic play,” said Brock. “It just is. The error in judgement to attempt to field it is as significant as not catching it.

“From my vantage point, he was probably on about the three yard line — which he shouldn’t be anywhere near the ball. He probably lost track of himself there. When you do those things and the margin of error is what ours is, it’s near impossible.”

Hens-Jarmon by .

Indian River High grad Jamie Jarmon ran the ball three times and had two catches totaling 24 yards on Saturday.

Albany, which snapped a four-game losing streak, lost starting quarterback Neven Sussman to a first-quarter injury. The Great Danes put the game out of reach with a six-play, 86-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Replacement QB D.J. Crook, who had seen his share of playing time this season, broke off a 63-yard run on the first play of the march before finishing it with a five-yard touchdown pass to Brad Harris with 10:23 remaining.

The day’s only offensive TD gave Albany its 17-6 lead.

Crook finished with 134 yards on 13 carries. Much of that yardage came on his two runs of 63 and 31 yards, when Crook faked a handoff and kept the ball on the option.

The Great Danes finished with just 27 yards passing but ran for 262. Ejijah Ibiokun-Hank added 135 yards on 28 carries.

“They just schemed something up,” said Delaware defensive tackle David Tinsley. “They had a plan and they executed it.”

“They ran the play a number of times and we defended it for no gain and a yard gain,” Brock said about the QB runs. “We either played it properly and tackled or we didn’t play it. When we didn’t play it, there’s nobody there.”

Offensively, Brock tried switching quarterbacks, going to junior Blake Rankin in the third quarter. It was the first action the former Rutgers transfer has seen since the season opener.

Rankin looked good at first, completing his first two passes for 22 yards and driving Delaware 48 yards on 10 plays. But the drive stalled inside the five and the Hens had to settle for Frank Raggo’s 21-yard field goal.

The kick gave the Hens their only advantage, 6-3, with 1:49 left in the third quarter.

Eventually, though, Rankin didn’t have any more success than starter Joe Walker. After completing his first seven passes of the day, Walker was 7-of-10 for 52 yards while Rankin was 5-of-9 for 51 yards.

The thing was, Delaware had some really good field position, starting six drives at its own 42 or better.

“We’ve got to fix i,” Brock said about Delaware’s offense. “It’s not a simple fix. There’s an awful lot of dynamics that go into it.

“We had plenty of opportunities … and twice went distinctly backwards. Guys are pressing. Whether it’s a loss of confidence … it’s hard to say that. It certainly looks like it. It almost looks like people are waiting for something to go wrong, not right.

“It’s our job to fix it and we certainly failed today.”

The Hens will get one more chance this year to win at Delaware Stadium when they host nationally-ranked James Madison next Saturday. Certainly it won’t be easy.

“We can’t let the circumstances of today’s game ultimately dictate how we move forward,” said Tinsley. “We’ll come in tomorrow, we’ll evaluate it and ultimately we’ll move on to James Madison. They’re coming in here and they’re a great team.”

Extra points

Albany’s Sussman was injured when he was hit while throwing the ball. He stayed down for a while and was taken from the field on a backboard. But it was believed to be mainly for precautionary reasons. … The Greats Danes had lost six straight road games. … Raggo hit field goals of 33 and 21 yards but had a 28-yarder blocked. … Thomas Jefferson ran for a team-high 57 yards on 10 carries. … The last time the Hens failed to score a TD in a home game was in a 26-3 loss to Maine in 2012.  … Linebacker Charles Bell had a game-high 11 tackles for Delaware.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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