Courtesy of Delaware Athletics
NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware dominated both sides of
scrimmage, piling up 257 yards behind the running of freshman tailback
Andrew Pierce and holding South Dakota State to just 25 yards on the
ground as the No. 16 Blue Hens posted an impressive 26-3 non-league
football victory over the No. 9 Jackrabbits Saturday afternoon at
sun-drenched Delaware Stadium.
The Blue Hens (2-0) snapped a six-game losing streak vs. Top 10
opponents and did so in a big way, jumping out to a 17-0 lead after the
first quarter and never looking back in a battle of NCAA Football
Championship Subdivision powers. The game marked the first-ever meeting
between the two schools. South Dakota State (0-1), an NCAA Tournament
participant a year ago, was playing its season opener.
â€œWe had some advantages today and we capitalized on them,â€ said Delaware
head coach K.C. Keeler, whose team last defeated a Top 10 opponent in
2007 when the Hens upended No. 5 Southern Illinois 20-17 in the FCS
semifinals. â€œThis was our second game and their first, we were the home
team, and I think we were a little healthier than they were. We
controlled both sides of scrimmage today. A.P. (Pierce) and
(quarterback) Pat Devlin had good days, but it all started up front for
us. That was were the game was won today.â€
Pierce, a 5-11, 200 lb. freshman, was a workhorse, carrying 26 times for
165 yards and a touchdown and becoming the first player in UD history to
run for over 100 yards in each of his first two collegiate games. His
165 yards was the third highest single game mark ever for a UD freshman
and was just 12 shy of teammate Phillip Thaxtonâ€™s record of 177 set in
2007. Pierce ran for 119 yards in last weekâ€™s season-opening win over
Devlin, a candidate for the Walter Payton National Player of the Year
Award, completed 14 of 25 passes for 143 yards and finding seven
different receivers in the first quarter alone for Delaware. He tossed a
seven-yard scoring strike to Thaxton just five minutes into the game as
the Hens jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back.
The Blue Hen defense was just as impressive for the second straight
week. After shutting down West Chester by a 31-0 score last week, the
Hens almost equalled that effort again as they held the Jackrabbits to
just 250 total yards, including just 25 yards rushing on 17 carries.
SDSU All-American running back Kyle Minett, who ranked among the
national leaders with 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago, was held
to just 32 yards on 14 carries, his lowest single game total since
taking over the starting duties as a sophomore.
The Hens also picked off SDSU quarterback Thomas Oâ€™Brien three times,
including two by All-Colonial Athletic Association safety Anthony
Bratton. Delaware kept the Jackrabbits out of the end zone all day,
stopping the final drive of the game when Matt Marcorelle intercepted a
pass in the end zone. The Hens have now intercepted six passes in two
games this season and have held opponents without a touchdown for the
last 143 minutes of game action over three games dating back to last
â€œAny turnover we get is a big one, and especially against an opponent
like South Dakota State it helps a lot,â€ said Bratton. â€œThis win really
boosts our confidence that much more. We knew this was a game that would
show where we stand. I think we aced the test.â€
Oâ€™Brien finished the day completing 23 of 45 passes for 225 yards with
wide receiver Tyrel Kool hauling in nine passes for 107 yards. The
Jackrabbits got their only points on a 20-yard field goal by Andy Harris
just 1:27 into the second half after recovering a Delaware fumble on the
second half kickoff.
Delaware wasted little time taking control. After South Dakota State was
penalized on two of its first three plays, Bratton intercepted an
overthrown pass by Oâ€™Brien on just the fifth play from scrimmage at the
Jackrabbit 30-yard line. Eight plays later Devlin found Thaxton wide
open across the middle in the end zone for a 7-0 UD lead with 9:51 left
in the quarter.
The Hens then upped that lead to 10-0 as Mike Perry capped an eight-play
drive with a 40-yard field goal on the second series of the day and
increased it to 17-0 as Pierce vaulted over the pile and into the end
zone from three yards out with 1:19 remaining. Pierceâ€™s score was set up
when Bratton stepped in front of an Oâ€™Brien pass for this second pick of
the day with 4:-05 left in the first quarter at the SDSU 43-yard line.
Delaware held SDSU to just 35 yards and a single first down in the
opening stanza and the Jackrabbits never got closer than the Blue Hen
25-yard line the entire first half. When they got that far, they
couldnâ€™t capitalize as Andy Harris was way short on 44-yard attempt
after a high snap with 11:56 left in the half. A second Perry field
goal, a 27-yarder with 5:41 left in the second quarter, put the Hens up
20-0 heading into intermission.
The Jackrabbits had a golden opportunity to start a comeback in the
second half but could not capitalize. Delawareâ€™s Tyrone Grant fumbled
the opening kickoff of the second half and Chris Tracy of SDSU recovered
at the Blue Hen 11-yard line. But the Jackrabbits picked up just eight
yards and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Harris with 13:33 left.
The Hens built the lead to 26-3 when sophomore David Hayes took a
handoff, swept around the left side, and tip-toed his way down the
sidelines for a 26-yard scoring romp with 3:03 left in the third stanza.
The Delaware defense then made a point to keep the Jackrabbits out of
the end zone, stopping South Dakota State on downs at the Blue Hen
six-yard line with 7:42 left to play and then again in the final seconds
when Marcorelle intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone.