Turnovers plague Blue Hens in 31-17 loss at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — Turnovers certainly play a big part in the game of football.

No one knows that better than the University of Delaware.

Just one week after forcing four turnovers was the key in a win at Albany, the Blue Hens turned the ball over four times themselves Saturday afternoon and the result was a 31-17 setback to No. 8 Richmond at Robins Stadium.

Still, despite the miscues, the Blue Hens were very much in the game until midway through the final quarter.

After the Spiders erased an early Delaware lead by halftime, the Blue Hens continued to nip at Richmond’s heels and trailed by a single touchdown at 24-17 when Thomas Jefferson scored on a seven-yard burst with 7:12 left to play.

Delaware receiver Diante Cherry pulls in a catch during Saturday’s game at Richmond. (Richmond sports information)

Delaware receiver Diante Cherry pulls in a catch during Saturday’s game at Richmond. (Richmond sports information)

But the Hens could never complete the comeback as Richmond responded quickly with a three-play, 81-yard drive to push the lead back to 31-17 with 5:42 remaining and held off the Hens for the win.

With one game remaining, the loss dooms Delaware (2-5 CAA, 4-6 overall) to back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1939.

“I was proud of the way our guys battled today,” said Delaware interim head coach Dennis Dottin-Carter, whose team has now turned the ball over 11 times in the last four games.

“We made mistakes in both halves but our guys never stopped believing. They showed a lot of heart and grit. We just made too many mistakes. We showed that we can play with anybody but we have to execute and take better care of the ball.”

That the high-powered Spider offense piled up 466 total yards, including 286 through the air by quarterback Kyle Lauletta, didn’t help as the Blue Hens had their two-game win streak snapped.

Richmond (8-2, 5-2 CAA), the defending CAA champion and preseason favorite and a 2015 NCAA semifinalist, solidified its bid to earn a second straight NCAA Tournament at-large bid as the Spiders won for the sixth time in the last seven weeks.The Spiders had six plays go for 20 or more yards.

Lauletta, the preseason CAA Player of the Year,  hit on 21 of 35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns with Brian Brown hauling in six throws for 139 yards and a score. Freshman Deontez Thompson led the running attack with 132 yards and a score.

Delaware sophomore quarterback Joe Walker hit on 11 of 18 passes for a career-high 182 yards, but he was intercepted twice. The usually sure-handed Jalen Randolph also fumbled the ball twice, both coming after long plays inside Richmond territory as he was battling to pick up extra yards.

Randolph finished with a team-high 75 yards rushing while Jefferson added 48 yards on the ground. Leading rusher Wes Hills, still hobbled by a lower body injury, carried just seven times for 20 yards.

“Lauletta and Brown are certainly two of the better players in the country at their positions,” said Dottin-Carter. “Lauletta put his passes in the right place every time and we just didn’t get enough pressure on him.”

“They have a ton of threats,” echoed Delaware senior safety and co-captain Ryan Torzsa. “We knew they could throw so we wanted to try to stop the run and make them one dimensional. I thought we played pretty good (on defense) but we just didn’t get the stops when we needed to. Forcing turnovers was our goal coming in but we just didn’t get it done.”

Delaware started fast, driving 57 yards in its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. The drive was extended when punter and holder Will Stephenson completed a six-yard pass to tight end Kyle Yocum off a fake field goal attempt to convert a first down. Two plays later Randolph scored from six yards out for a 7-0 lead just 7:03 into the game.

But Richmond came back with 17 unanswered points, including a 12-yard scoring pass from Lauletta to Garett Hudson and a six-yard run by Thompson, to take a 17-7 lead into the break.

Delaware cut the lead to 17-10 on Frank Raggo’s 24-yard field goal with 2:26 left in the third quarter, but Richmond answered with another Lauletta to Hudson scoring connection to push the advantage to 24-10.

Extra points

Walker completed his first five passes of the game to extend Delaware’s streak to 15 straight pass completions over three games, breaking the UD record of 13 set vs. Maine in 2004. Walker also tied the individual record of 13 straight set by Sonny Riccio in that 2004 Maine game. … Richmond has now defeated Delaware three straight times since 2012. … Troy Reeder blocked a Richmond punt in the second quarter, Delaware’s second of the season. … Delaware entered the game with an NCAA-low of 34 penalties and was whistled just twice for eight yards. … Linebacker Charles Bell recorded seven tackles to up his career total to 204, making him the 46th player in UD history to surpass the 200-tackle mark.

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