3 & Out: Delaware separates from Duquesne in second half, notches third straight win

Managing Sports Editor

The rain clouds separated and the Parents & Family Weekend crowd of 18,952 filed in just in time for Delaware’s kickoff versus Duquesne University on Saturday. Although the sun brightened a damp Delaware Stadium right from the opening kickoff, the Blue Hens did not shine until the second half, which they used to pull away from the Dukes in a 43-17 win. 

The victory was Delaware’s third straight, keeping it unbeaten against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) competition and ending its regular-season nonconference schedule. 

Before the Hens’ Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) play resumes on Homecoming Saturday against North Carolina A&T State University, the following are three main storylines from Delaware’s dumping of Duquesne in a continuation of The Review’s Monday 3 & Out series.

Blue Hens keeping fans antsy early in games but assuaging concerns thereafter

Above: Delaware’s Parents Day crowd looks on during Saturday’s game facing Duquesne at Delaware Stadium. (Maddy McManus/THE REVIEW)

During its winning streak, Delaware has made a habit of relatively slow starts followed by convincing turnarounds. Such was life hosting Duquesne, which took multiple first-half leads over favored and nationally ranked Delaware in front of its sellout crowd.

The Dukes struck first upon forcing the Blue Hens to punt on the game’s opening drive, which concluded on CJ Barnes’ sack of Delaware quarterback Ryan O’Connor for a loss of 11 yards. Duquesne’s Darius Perrantes scored on the next possession by lobbing a touchdown pass to DJ Powell, who slipped away from Delaware defensive back Tyron Herring to scoot for a 52-yard catch-and-run down the home sideline.

Duquesne later enjoyed a 17-15 edge in the second quarter when the Dukes capitalized on their possession gained by an end-zone interception of an O’Connor fade pass. In just the third play after Ayden Garnes’ pick for Duquesne (on the Blue Hens’ goal-line pass with a pair of offensive linemen split wide), Edward Robinson broke loose on a 68-yard go-ahead touchdown rush. Robinson was named Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Week on Monday for his efforts, which included 86 total rushing yards on eight carries and one reception for nine yards.

“Apparently, we’re a second-half team,” Delaware Head Football Coach Ryan Carty said postgame, pleased by his squad’s 21-0 second-half blanking of Duquesne but prepared to acknowledge the comparatively choppy first half.

“Once we settle in, I do think we kind of feel our way through a game very well. I don’t think there’s ever any issue when we go down early or don’t score early. It doesn’t seem to affect us as coaches or as players, which is a good thing because that also means you have confidence…It still would be better if we came out to a fast start and then did all those things.”

Delaware found itself at quite the initial deficit in its previous home win. The Blue Hens trailed New Hampshire 18-0 before awakening for a crucial 29-25 CAA win. The week before UNH’s visit, Delaware was scoreless in the first quarter hosting Saint Francis, another NEC foe. The Red Flash held a 7-0 lead briefly in the second quarter of the Hens’ home opener.

Though Delaware has answered the call at each juncture caused by an iffy start, with offense kicking into gear and defense clamping down in a sign of quality coaching and player effort, there could come a time at which the Blue Hens’ early-game lulls come back to bite them, especially as the calendar turns to CAA Football games from here on out. On Saturday with Duquesne in Newark, Delaware did enough to get breathing room after shaky early series. 

“Our first two drives on offense and defense weren’t clean, and I think we need to make sure that that continues to be something we put an onus on and get a little better at,” Carty said Monday. “But we also played a good football team and they came ready to go, too.” 

GoGo to JoJo  

Above: JoJo Bermudez goes on the run against Duquesne Saturday at Delaware Stadium. (Maddy McManus/THE REVIEW)

While Carty on Monday expressed his desire for Delaware to settle in sooner in a game, he also pointed out the Blue Hens’ two first-quarter touchdowns against Duquesne, one of which came on O’Connor’s 12-yard pass to JoJo Bermudez.

Bermudez finished the afternoon as a leading receiver for Delaware, pocketing seven catches for 83 yards to equal the receiving yardage by proven Blue Hen returnee Chandler Harvin, who also had a touchdown. With Kym Wimberly’s injury causing Delaware to be short one wide receiver, Bermudez stepped in well, asserting himself in the open field with his eye-catching speed that is also evident on special teams.

“He’s really doing a great job of picking up the offense,” Carty said postgame about Bermudez. “We forget, just because he’s a [Cincinnati] transfer doesn’t mean he’s not a freshman, so he’s young and in an offense that is fairly intricate as far as formations and movements and motions.” 

Carty said he is “proud that [Bermudez has] been able to progress into his role now, which is, obviously, he’s very dynamic. You guys can see it when the ball’s in his hands. The more times we can get him the ball in his hands, that’s great.”

Joshua Youngblood also saw some more time in the receiver rotation with Wimberly out. Youngblood, who is Bermudez’s partner back to receive on kickoff return formations, caught a seven-yard touchdown pass by O’Connor for Delaware’s penultimate score. 

The Hens’ final points came via O’Connor’s drop in the bucket to yet another receiver with more chances on Saturday, Phil Lutz. Lutz’s 34-yard touchdown reception with 2:42 to play put an exclamation point on his four total catches for 56 yards.

Above: Phil Lutz brings in the football for a touchdown against Duquesne in the fourth quarter Saturday at Delaware Stadium. (Larissa Veronica Heather/THE REVIEW)

Defense bears down in the second half and on the quarterback

Above: Jack Hall reacts after a play by the Delaware defense versus Duquesne Saturday at Delaware Stadium. (Larissa Veronica Heather/THE REVIEW)

For a second consecutive game, Delaware’s defense took early lumps and had the hits to respond. Duquesne was silenced by the Blue Hens’ ‘D’ for the remainder after Robinson’s aforementioned dash gave the Dukes the two-point advantage with 7:08 to go in the second quarter.

Duquesne wrapped up its loss averaging 14.2 yards per completion and 4.8 yards per rush, but was outdone by Delaware in total yards (466 to 290), first downs (27 to 13) and third-down conversions (8-of-13 to 2-of-9).

The Blue Hens’ defensive front got pressure on Perrantes and on the Dukes’ QB reliever, Matt Robinson. Delaware’s Jack Hall, known as “Sack Hall” on the Hens’ social media Saturday, secured 1.5 sacks as part of two tackles for loss and seven total stops. 

“For the past couple years I’ve been here, the big knock on our defensive line is we don’t rush the passer, which, out of a three-man front, I actually think we do a really good job of,” Hall said postgame. “Today, [Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Manny] Rojas had a couple good pressures in there and we had a really good game plan where it allowed us some opportunities for us to have one-on-one matchups. If we get one-on-one matchups, I think there’s nothing we can’t do.”

Linebacker Jackson Taylor led Delaware in tackles with his 13 total times halting Duquesne, including 2.5 tackles for loss, adding to the Dukes’ backfield distress. One more tackle for loss came from Keyshawn Hunter, the Delaware defensive lineman who totaled seven tackles (four solo).

The Blue Hens snared three interceptions on the day, one each by Ty Davis, Nic Ware and Steven Rose Jr. The safeties were, on occasion, the beneficiaries of the ideal complementary defense, with pressure getting home to cause ill-advised throws.

North Carolina A&T vs. Delaware will air live on 91.3 FM WVUD Saturday at 2:45 p.m. when pregame programming begins. Konner Metz and Ethan Fager will have the call with live audio streaming available on wvud.org and TuneIn. For gameday scenes and updates, follow The Review on Instagram at @udreview.

Originally posted 2023-10-09 20:59:03.