University of Delaware football fans have been asking themselves two questions this week. The first question: Who is Sacred Heart? And the second question, which has them even more puzzled: How did we lose to Sacred Heart?
There can no longer be any doubt — this is not your father’s Blue Hens or even your brother’s. And if there is still just a sliver of doubt about that, look ahead to this week’s opponent, Elon.
Sacred Heart? Elon? And how about Pitt?
We’re obviously in a new era of Delaware football, and that doesn’t have as much to do with the passage of time as much as the change in the people running the football program and the teams they play. For Delaware’s long-time fans, it’s been an adjustment. We’re willing to bet that almost none of them know Elon’s nickname or even knew that Sacred Heart had a football team – and if they did know, they probably thought they played in the CYM, not the NCAA.
For the first time in decades, the head coach has no prior connection to Delaware’s proud history in football. It went from a legendary coach (Dave Nelson) to his assistant (Tubby Raymond) to a former player (K.C. Keeler). That unbroken chain was important to Delaware fans because it felt like family as much as football. These were people they knew and respected, even if they didn’t always agree with them.
Enter Dave Brock, who succeeded Keeler last year. The two people who fired Keeler, school president Patrick Harker and athletic director Eric Ziady, are also outsiders with no previous links to Delaware and its tradition.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Change is often for the better and it’s way too early to say that Ziady and Brock are not on the right course. Brock deserves a couple of his own recruiting classes and a chance to let them mature together, and that process has already started – the Hens have 10 players on defense who are new to the program and at times they have six true freshmen on the field.
That being said, it’s still hard to fathom or stomach last week’s loss to Sacred Heart. What has been most alarming about the new Blue Hens has been their lack of a potent offense, something Delaware has almost always had, whether it was Raymond’s Wing-T or Keeler’s no-huddle, spread offense. There were always offensive droughts, of course, but it’s hard to remember when it’s been as bad as this — Delaware is averaging just 18.4 points per game and the Hens used to score that in a quarter.
OK, that might be an exaggeration, but not much of one. Statistics don’t always tell the whole story and Delaware’s stats are a little out of whack because of the way they were dominated by Pittsburgh in the season opener. At the same time, just because the Blue Hens took on a major-conference team like Pitt doesn’t mean they had to get blown out 62-0. Other mid-major teams have taken on the big boys before and been competitive and a few have actually won – and 62-0 would be an embarrassment if the Hens had played the Denver Broncos.
Among all Colonial Athletic Association teams, Delaware is seventh in scoring offense and they’re also seventh in total offense and rushing offense, as well as sixth total defense.
If that sounds middle-of-the-road to you, then you can see where the Hens are headed this season. Most of the time they won’t be real good and sometimes they’ll be real bad, like they were against Pitt and Sacred Heart – and when was the last time you saw those two football teams mentioned in the same sentence?
This week, in his weekly conference call with reporters, Brock channeled his best Andy Reid and said at least six times that he and his assistant coaches have to do a better job of putting their players in position to make plays.But he also acknowledged that sometimes they were in the right position and didn’t make the play.
“When we had opportunities, we really made the least of them,’’ Brock said. “We don’t want to be hit or miss, and right now it’s too much miss.’’
And now the Hens play Elon, a team most of the Delaware fans don’t know anything about and many of them never heard of before they joined the CAA this year to replace one of the schools that have deserted the conference in the last few years. Elon – its nickname is the Phoenix, by the way – is currently 0-1 in the CAA and 1-4 overall, so it’s not like the Hens have a major challenge in front of them this week.
But that shouldn’t matter anyhow, as Brock correctly pointed out.
“For us, it’s as much about Delaware as it is anything,’’ he said. “We’ve got to worry about us and get back on track.’’