NEWARK, Del. — The University of Delaware football team has thrived all season long behind its dominating defense and the pinpoint accuracy of All-American quarterback Pat Devlin.
That combination rose to the occasion once again Friday night as the No. 3 seed and fifth-ranked Blue Hens (11-2) shut down No. 11 New Hampshire, holding the Wildcats to a single first quarter field goal and moving on to a 16-3 victory in an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game at chilly Delaware Stadium.
Delaware’s defense, which entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, allowing just over 12 points per game, held the potent UNH offense in check all night, limiting the Wildcats (8-5) to just 237 total yards and stopping them on 11 of 13 third down opportunities. New Hampshire, which had a five-game winning streak snapped, had scored 28 or more points in six of its last seven games, including a 45-20 win over Bethune-Cookman in last week’s NCAA second round playoff game.
Devlin, a Top 10 finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award earlier this season, was nearly flawless, completing 27 of 38 passes for 261 yards and putting the game away in the second for the Hens with scoring tosses of 24 yards to sophomore wide receiver Nihja White midway through the third quarter and nine yards to junior wideout Mark Schenauer early in the final stanza. Devlin, the national leader in pass completion pct. with a mark of 68 percent, also surpassed the 200-yard mark for the seventh straight game.
The Blue Hens, who snapped a personal three-game losing streak vs. their Colonial Athletic Association foes, now advance to the NCAA semifinals where they will host either Georgia Southern or Wofford next Friday or Saturday.
“That was two very good teams going at it out there,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who improved to 10-2 all-time in NCAA FCS playoff action for the Blue Hens, including a perfect 7-0 mark at home. “Our defense really played lights out against an awesome offense. All week long we talked about managing the moment and tonight we did a good job of that. At halftime, we were excited about the way things were going (3-3 tie) and we were confident about the second half. I just didn’t want this season to end. It’s so much fun to coach these kids.”
Delaware, which shared the CAA regular season title with William & Mary this season, advances to the NCAA semifinals for the third time in nine seasons under Keeler as the Hens won the NCAA national championship in 2003 and were runners-up in 2007. The win marked the first time since a 41-0 NCAA Division II semifinal win over Winston-Salem State in 1978 that the Hens did not allow a touchdown in a home playoff game.
Devlin, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year, directed an offense that overcame a sluggish first quarter to put up 383 total yards of offense. White caught eight passes for 94 yards while Crosby had seven catches for 55 yards, and Schenauer hauled in four passes for 43 yards and scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Freshman running back Andrew Pierce, the CAA Rookie of the Year and the league’s leading rusher, led all ground gainers with 90 yards on 23 carries. The Hens managed just one first down and 14 total yards in the first quarter before coming to life.
The Delaware defense, playing without six-year senior middle linebacker Matt Marcorelle who strained a calf muscle in warm-ups and did not play, recorded three sacks on the day and forced the game’s only turnover when senior cornerback Anthony Walters intercepted UNH quarterback R.J. Toman on a fourth down play at the Delaware 27-yard line with 5:47 left to play. Walters also had two interceptions in Delaware’s 42-20 second round NCAA win over Lehigh last week.
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