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Hens' Offense Shoots Blanks vs. Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. – As drizzle descended from the sky, sarcasm streamed from the University of Delaware football rooters collected inside Richmond Stadium.
They made a point to cheer with extra enthusiasm when the Blue Hens recorded a rare first down late in the first half Saturday.
Like the UD offense, they were hardly heard from again.
Delaware needed its defense to supply both touchdowns in a 31-14 Colonial Athletic Association loss to Richmond that set new lows in a season of offensive frustration and failure.
“I had a defense that played so inspired and an offense that played so pathetic,” Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said. “That’s my problem. I have guys with one game left in their career and they need to get that thing squared away before we play Villanova [in the season finale].”
The 53 total yards and three first downs, two of which came on the last series, were the fewest by Delaware since such records started being kept in the 1950s.
The previous lows were 56 yards in a 2001 loss at Northeastern, and four first downs in a 1964 home defeat against Bucknell.
“No one was in synch … It was the most frustrating game I’ve ever had in my life,” senior tailback/wideout Kervin Michaud said.
Delaware fell to 4-7 and is assured of a losing record, just the ninth in the 66 seasons of its modern football history, which dates to college football Hall of Famer Bill Murray’s hiring as coach in 1940. In that same span, Delaware has won six national titles and been in contention numerous other times.
Delaware (2-5 CAA) closes the season at home against sixth-ranked Villanova (8-2, 6-1) next Saturday. In 117 seasons of football, the Blue Hens have never lost eight games in a season.
As has often been the case this season, the offense’s struggles were in marked contrast to a laudable defensive effort.
Delaware’s two touchdowns came on Tyrone Grant’s interception return in the first quarter and Charles Graves’ fumble return in the fourth. Grant also recovered a fumble, and Graves intercepted a pass.
Playing without three starters injured last week against Towson, the defense was on the field 42 of the game’s 60 minutes, despite Richmond’s four turnovers. It was a 441-yard day for Richmond, but the Spiders had to work for what they got, and needed fullback John Crone’s 6-yard TD run with 3:55 left to ice the win.
In his second start, Delaware quarterback Lou Ritacco completed 13 of 22 passes for 48 yards with one interception. Michaud’s 20 yards on nine carries topped Hen rushers, and UD’s 3 yards rushing were the third lowest on record.
“Their D-line played more physical than we did, from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” senior center Kheon Hendricks said. “We never got a drive going, never got a rhythm going. It’s tough to get a drive going when you’re mostly three-and-outs. I don’t feel like we were dying for a big play. We were dying to get a first down.”
Tailback Josh Vaughan gained 156 yards on 40 carries with a touchdown for No. 7-ranked Richmond (8-3, 5-2).
Quarterback Eric Ward completed 16 of 24 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 77 yards and a TD.
Delaware struck first on a windy afternoon under threatening skies. Grant stepped in front of intended receiver Jordan Mitchell along the Richmond sideline, intercepted Ward’s pass and galloped 57 yards for the game’s first touchdown with 6:19 left in the first quarter.
But Delaware couldn’t muster any offense, whereas Richmond scored on its three subsequent first-half possessions to take a 17-7 advantage into halftime.
Ward scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to push the Spiders ahead 24-7 with 9:46 left. Free safety Graves then returned a Richmond fumble 45 yards for a touchdown as the Hens pulled within 24-14 with 8:45 to go.
But the UD offense couldn’t do its part.
“We thought for most of the season that Richmond’s defense was as good a defense as there was in this league, and they showed it,” Keeler said.
“My frustration is missed assignments, those kinds of things. We lost our poise a little bit in terms of not executing very well.”
Hens’ offense shoots blanks
By Kevin Tresolini, The Delaware News Journal
Photo Credit: Joe Mahoney/The Richmond Times Dispatch