Young Hens make debuts in opening loss to Pitt

PITTSBURGH — Simba Gwashavanhu says he wasn’t really nervous on Saturday.

But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a pretty big moment for the Delaware redshirt freshman safety.

The youngster was making his college football debut in a 65,000-seat canyon of yellow seats on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ home field. He may have taken a moment or two to look around the place.

“It is Heinz Field,” Gwashavanhu said with a smile. “It’s an NFL stadium.”

For better or worse, Gwashavanhu wasn’t alone on Saturday.

Coach Dave Brock estimated that 21 Hens made their college football debuts in the Delaware’s 62-0 season-opening rout by Pittsburgh.

And of the approximately 70 players in the Hens’ travelling party, 38 had never been on the field in a college game before.

Saturday was certainly a game that those newcomers will never forget. Brock, though, didn’t think the Hens’ youth was a big factor in Delaware’s blowout loss on Saturday.

“Playing 21 new players, that’s not necessarily the recipe for success,” said Brock. “But I’ll watch the film and see how they played. I saw (linebacker) Donte Raymond make a number of tackles, I saw (linebacker) Anthony Jackson make a number of tackles, I saw (defensive end) Bilal Nichols make a number of tackles. Those guys did a good job.

“I felt like (center) Brody Kern did a good job. … But one of the things that’s going to have to be a hallmark of this team if we want to do the things we talk about doing, we’re going to have to get better every single week.”

Gwashavanhu finished with four tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass in his first game.

“We just have to go back to work tomorrow,” he said.

Boyd’s impact

Pitt star receiver Tyler Boyd had his moments on Saturday.

Most notably, he returned Delaware’s first punt 35 yards to set up the Panthers’ first touchdown. The sophomore finished with 72 yards on three punt returns, two catches for 18 yards and two carries for 17 yards.

But Boyd left the game in the second quarter after dislocating a finger on his left hand and did not return.

“I didn’t have any reason to play him after that,” said Pitt coach Paul Chryst, whose team led 42-0 at halftime.

Extra points

Injuries are always a concern for a lower-division team like Delaware when it faces a big school like Pitt. The Hens apparently have lost starting outside linebacker Derek Battle for the season to a leg injury suffered in the game. … Michael Johnson (4 catches-16 yards) made a reception in his 24th straight game. The senior receiver also ran the ball twice for three yards out of the wildcat formation. … New running backs Jalen Randolph and Wes Hills both netted 27 yards running the ball. But Delaware totaled just 33 yards on the ground after QB Trent Hurley lost 21 yards on three sacks. … Senior Justin Burns replaced Hurley in the fourth quarter and completed all three of his pass attempts for 12 yards. Senior safety C.J. Jones, the A.I. DuPont High grad who transferred from Boston College, made a game-high seven tackles in his Blue Hen debut. … The largest crowd to see a Delaware football game was the crowd of 48,000 for 2008 season opener at Maryland. … The UD record for the fewest yards in a game were the 53 the Hens had against Richmond in 2008. … Saturday’s game marked the first time Pitt held an opponent under 100 yards since Akron had 97 in 1998.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227

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