UD notebook: Hens’ Amachi starting to catch on

Chichi Amachi pulls in a 44-yard touchdown pass against North Dakota State on Saturday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Chichi Amachi had done the hard part.

The Delaware receiver dove to catch the pass, dragged his foot inbounds, rolled over when he hit the ground and held on to the football.

But now it was up to the referee whether all that constituted a touchdown for Amachi.

Finally the official’s hands went up.

“I knew I had possession of the ball, but I wasn’t sure if he was going to give it to me or not,” said Amachi. “I felt like I dragged my foot, though. When I looked back he was looking to see whether I had possession so I knew he was a going to give it to me at that point. It was a great feeling.”

As exciting as Amachi’s TD was, the 44-yard catch on a pass from quarterback Nolan Henderson came with only six minutes remaining in the Blue Hens’ 47-22 loss to No. 1 North Dakota State on Saturday.

Still, with No. 20 Delaware (2-1) getting ready to host Pennsylvania (0-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m., Amachi is proving he can be a big-play receiver for the Hens.

And there was no guarantee the former William Penn High standout would ever get this chance.

In his first three seasons in the program, Amachi had a total of two catches for 12 yards — and both those came in 2016. But in just three contests so far this season, he already has seven catches for 153 yards and a pair of TDs.

Amachi, who didn’t play at all last fall in a redshirt season, said he just had to be patient and keep working.

“A lot people don’t really get to see the hard work we put in,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, who is an honor student as a finance major.

“We’ve been here for three long years and we grind, day-in and day-out,” he said about he and his teammates “There’s a lot of perseverance. Just to be where we’re at is just a blessing from God. I just kind of leave it to the man upstairs.

“I just keep working hard and my chance finally came.”

Delaware coach Danny Rocco said Amachi is earning more opportunities. His 44-yard scoring reception was his only catch on Saturday but that was at least partly because of the heavy pass rush the Hens’ quarterbacks faced.

“We’re finding more and more things for him to do,” said Rocco. “And we are more and more aware of maybe getting him some matchups, using him in different ways and taking advantage of his talents — his speed and his explosive ability.”

QB or not QB

If he’s getting ready to switch starting quarterbacks, Rocco didn’t tip his hand on Monday.

Henderson gave the Hens a spark against North Dakota State after replacing starter Pat Kehoe at halftime.

The fact that Henderson threw two touchdown passes — albeit after the Bison had built a 33-5 lead — clearly had some Delaware fans wanting to see more of the Smyrna High grad.

For what it’s worth, the word ‘or’ now appears between Kehoe and Henderson on the depth chart for the Penn game.

QB Nolan Henderson scrambles for yardage against the Bison in Saturday’s loss. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

Rocco said he and his staff start discussing any lineup changes on Monday night each week.

“If you’re asking me if I’ve made a decision on who’s going to be our starting quarterback this week, I have not,” he told reporters on Monday. “That’s where our conversations will go tonight.

“That’s the position — and rightfully so — that needs and wants an answer. But there’s other positions where we’re going to have the same exact conversations.”

Under unrelenting pressure, Kehoe completed just 2-of-9 passes for 11 yards and an interception on Saturday. He also lost 21 yards on four carries.

The more mobile Henderson, though, was 9-for-12 for 125 yards with no interceptions and the two TDs. He also netted 18 yards on eight carries, which included a 21-yard run.

Both QBs have played in all three games this fall. Kehoe is 46-of-75 for 479 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Henderson is 14-of-18 for 145 yards with the two TDs and no interceptions.

Henderson also has run for 60 yards on 17 carries.

“He creates another set of headaches for defensive coaches,” NDSU coach Matt Entz said about Henderson’s running ability.

There’s also the matter of whether Delaware’s other former Smyrna star, freshman running back Will Knight, will be getting more playing time. With starter DaJoun Lee (knee) sidelined, Knight is second behind senior Andre Robinson on the depth chart.

Knight is the Hens’ leading rusher, though, with 195 yards on just 14 carries — an average of 13.6 yards per carry. The Old Dominion transfer also has 70 yards on only five receptions.

Rocco agrees that Knight has been impressive. He said he just wants to make sure the youngster knows all the nuances of the offense — like pass protection.

“It’s justification of why you don’t just go full scale with the new guy,” Rocco said about young players in general. “‘He looks so good. …’ If he played every play, he might not look that good because a lot of other things go into playing that position.
“There’s a lot there to be excited about,” Rocco said about Knight. “His role will continue to increase as we get deeper into the season. … He’s exactly where he needs to be (in learning the offense). He’s exactly where I want him to be. Now it’s just about moving forward.”

Getting their kicks

Some people wondered why North Dakota State ran a fake field goal in the closing minutes on Saturday when it was already leading 40-22.

Holder Garrett Wegner ran for six yards on a fourth-and-five. The play led to a Bison touchdown with 1:46 left.

“We make everyone defend every snap,” explained NDSU’s Entz. “We saw something early in the week and it was going to come out during the day. On the previous three series on defense, we didn’t look very good. I was tired of seeing it. We were going to try to keep our offense on the field.”

Rocco said he wondered whether the trick play was necessary under the circumstances.

“In that moment, I was a little disappointed that that play was called as it was,” he said. “I was going to say something to Coach after the game — ‘Coach I didn’t really know why, there. …’ I didn’t feel that that was the right call to make — faking it there. If you’re going to go for it, just go for it.”

Extra points

Starting linebacker Johnny Buchanan missed the North Dakota State game with a knee injury. Freshman Javar Garrett, a Virginia transfer, started in his place. … Rocco said, at times, Delaware had 10 underclassmen on the field on defense in Saturday’s contest. … True freshman Ryan Coe has handled five kickoffs with four touchbacks.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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