Rocco: Hens ‘embarrassed’ in 38-10 road loss to No. 1 North Dakota State

Blue Hen linebacker Troy Reeder brings down North Dakota State’s Ty Brooks in Saturday’s game. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

FARGO, N.D. — Delaware’s football players had been looking forward to playing in the FargoDome for a long time.

Unfortunately for the Blue Hens, the Bison were more than happy to give them the full experience.

No. 1 North Dakota State erupted for 28 unanswered points in the first 13 minutes of the game before coasting to a 38-10 victory over Delaware before a happy homecoming crowd of 18,883 on Saturday afternoon.

The Bison (3-0), who have won six of the last seven NCAA Division FCS national titles, led 35-0 by halftime in the first meeting between the two programs.

Coach Danny Rocco, as his style, didn’t mince any words about his team’s performance. The Hens (2-2) were outgained 527 yards to 152.

Delaware QB Pat Kehoe, who didn’t throw an interception in his first three games, was under pressure much of the time on Saturday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“We performed very poorly against a really, really good football team,” he said. “And when you perform poorly against a really good team, you get embarrassed. That’s basically what happened with us today.

“Really no phase of our game earned any right to feel like we deserved to be in the game or to win the game. I did tell the team, we’re all in this together. It’s going to take a little while to process this. We’re all very disappointed in our performance.”

After the Bison scored on their first possession, the contest started to get away from the Hens on their first offensive play from scrimmage. Quarterback Pat Kehoe, who hadn’t thrown an interception in his first three games, had his first pass of the game intercepted by Jabril Cox.

Cox jumped a route in the flat and easily returned it 36 yards for a touchdown as North Dakota State’s lead quickly balooned to 14-0 with 10:13 still left in the first quarter.

Delaware tight end Charles Scarff picks up yardage after catching a pass against the Bison. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

Kehoe completed 11-of-29 passes for only 95 yards with three interceptions. He was also sacked three times for losses of 22 yards and lost a fumble.

The junior was the first Delaware QB to throw for 200 yards in each of his first three starts.

“They put us on our heels a bit with the way they started the game and that really knocked off us off our gameplan,” said Kehoe. “I believe in this offense and this team. I believe in every one of the guys in that locker room. We have to get back and watch the tape and know that we all have to get better.”

“He was rattled and very inconsistent,” Rocco said about Kehoe. “We got off to such a bad, bad start. The first drive, they take the ball against our defense, drive for a touchdown. Then we come out and throw a pick six. We really could not have gotten off to a worse start against a team like this in an environment like that.

“We have to protect him better but he’s certainly going to have to play a lot better than he did today if we think we’re going to have a good second half here.”

The Bison scored on five of their first six possessions. They almost led 42-0 at intermission but Delaware tackled a North Dakota State receiver just inches short of the goal line on the final play of the half.

North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick, a fourth-year starter, completed 17-of-26 passes for 280 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He also ran for 41 yards and two more touchdowns on five carries.

“For us, it’s not about the ‘Jimmy’s and the Joe’s’, it’s about how we’re executing and we didn’t do that today,” said senior linebacker Troy Reeder. “They jumped us, but we were able to make adjustments and I think it showed from the second quarter on. But unfortunately the way the game started, it was too deep of a hole for us to climb out of.”

Delaware did keep the Bison from totally running away with things in the second half.

Kicker Frank Raggo finally got the Hens on the scoreboard when he booted a 33-yard field goal with just 4:12 remaining to finish off a 12-play, 62-yard drive.

Delaware then made the score look a little better when senior safety Malcolm Brown scooped up a fumble and raced 92 yards for a TD with only 1:57 remaining.

But it was far too little, too late.

The Hens have an open date next weekend before starting a stretch of seven straight Colonial Athletic Association games to finish the regular season. They’ll clearly have some regrouping to do.

“We were 2-2 a year ago,” said Rocco, whose team finished 7-4 last fall. “We’re 2-2 here today. We need to take a step back and make some good, hard decisions moving forward. But we all need to stay united and we all need to remain positive as we get back into conference play in a couple weeks.”

Extra points

Defensive back Nasir Adderley and linebacker Ray Jones had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively. … Running back Dejoun Lee had a team-high 42 yards on nine carries. .. Vinny Papale had three catches for 58 yards. … Delaware returns to action on Oct. 6 with a CAA game at Richmond.

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