Even on nights it doesn’t operate with the efficiency and explosiveness its operators prefer, Delaware’s uptempo spread offense apparently just needs time.
That was the case Saturday at Delaware Stadium, where the Blue Hens got in rhythm in the second half to finish off a 35-3 Colonial Athletic Association win over Hampton.
CAA newcomer Hampton arrived with one of the league’s better defenses, statistically. The Pirates used an end-zone interception to thwart one UD march and stopped another on downs at the Hampton 6, leaving the Hens 14-0 halftime leaders but wishing for more.
They got more with 70-, 75- and 74-yard touchdown drives to start the second half in a win that also featured a solid defensive effort.
Five takeaways from Saturday’s game as No. 8-ranked Delaware improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the CAA.
Adjustments do the trick
“I think I did a below average job calling some plays in the red zone there,” coach Ryan Carty said of Saturday’s first half. “… I also think we didn’t make a ton of plays down there either.”
Hampton’s defense, whose coordinator Chris Cosh knows the Blue Hens well, having held that job at Delaware from 2017-19, adapted and was particularly effective inside the 25, Carty added.
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Quarterback Nolan Henderson threw the ball better the last two quarters and it paid off as the Blue Hens pulled away for a lopsided win in Hampton’s CAA debut.
Delaware also did not punt in the second half.
Henderson makes history
Henderson became just the fourth UD quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in a game in the win over Hampton. He connected with Thyrick Pitts on 15-, 8- and 7-yard strikes, Jourdan Townsend on a 36-yarder and Marcus Yarns on a 3-yarder.
The others were Tom DiMuzio against Lehigh in 1969, Scott Brunner, who was the color analyst on Saturday’s Flosports stream of the game, versus C.W. Post in 1979 and Pat Kehoe at Rhode Island in 2019.
“We have a lot of guys and a lot of looks that we can get guys in good positions to score,” said Henderson, whose 30 completions were shared by a dozen pass catchers, “and I think that makes it tough to play defense when you’re not just trying to rely on stopping one guy.”
But nobody had ever thrown for nine over two games, as Henderson did after flinging four TD passes last week at Rhode Island.
“It’s a good offense to be in if you’re the quarterback,” Henderson said. “Coach Carty does a great job of scheming up the defense and getting me in positions where a lot of times it’s just getting it into the receivers’ hands. Probably a product of the offense and the guys that we have in the wide receiver room.”
Henderson finished the day 30-for-43 for 296 yards, including 14-for-14 in the second half.
“It’s a pretty nice offense,” Carty pointed out, “when your quarterback’s really good and he can throw nine touchdowns in two games. It’s a nice marriage right now.”
Pitts became the ninth Blue Hen with 2,000 career receiving yards on his first touchdown catch and finished the night with seven receptions for 61 yards and the three TDs.
His knack for clutch catches has become as apparent as ever this season, and his comfort and familiarity with Henderson is a big advantage for the Hens.
“I do know,” Carty said, “that they’re both really good players and so it makes sense that one’s getting open and one’s throwing it to him and they’re connecting.”
But, more than that, he added, was that Pitts is particularly adept at getting open when Carty scrambles, as he often does.
“We’re firm believers here that the ball finds energy … and I think Thyrick’s done a really nice job at getting open when we’ve had situations where the pocket may break down,” Carty said.
Stat of the game
When Carty looked at the stat sheet after Saturday’s game and uttered the word “wow,” it wasn’t over something the offense had done. He even wondered if it was typo.
“Is that real?” he asked. “… Impressive.”
It was Delaware’s defense having pitched a shutout in an important category, as Hampton was 0-for-12 on third-down conversions.
The Pirates totaled just 156 yards and had just one first down in the first half.
Amonte Strothers and Steven Rose Jr. had second-half interceptions for the Hens, who also had five tackles for lost yardage. They also limited Hampton to a field goal after it recovered a fumble at the UD 8.
Towson next at sold-out stadium
Next Saturday’s Parents Day game against Towson at Delaware is sold out. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus).
It remains to be seen if the weather becomes a factor depending on Tropical Storm Ian's track up the Eastern Seaboard.
Towson (2-2, 0-1) was drubbed 37-14 by New Hampshire Saturday.
“Our mentality has been to get better every day,” Carty said, “… and that’s what’s going to give us confidence next Saturday.”
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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Blue Hens belatedly get offense humming in 35-3 CAA win over Hampton