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Saturday, March 6, 2021

UD's Big Question Mark

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

It’s always the Big Question Mark for the University of Delaware football team, even though the position has usually been filled with Big Exclamation Points. And even though the season is young and his first game was far from sensational, it appears that question is being answered in the affirmative – yes, the Blue Hens do have a quarterback who can get them back to the NCAA championship game.

 

For the first time in a long time, the Hens went into a season without a quarterback who transferred from a prominent Division I school (and sorry to be out of date, but I refuse to call Division I and I-AA the FBS and FCS, which makes it sound as if they’re going to arrest you or audit your tax return).

 

You know all the names that have lined up behind center for the Hens in recent years – Andy Hall, Sonny Riccio, Pat Devlin and, of course, Joe Flacco. All of them started someplace else before finding a home in Newark.

 

Delaware opened against Navy on Saturday and got whipped pretty good, but the new kid in the huddle handled himself very, very well. And that bodes well for the Hens and their faithful supporters as they chase after another shot at the national championship.

 

Sophomore Trevor Sasek, who actually began his college career in Newark, had a good game against the Middies until he got hurt, bruising a knee. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 82 yards, but also had a few passes dropped. He also ran for 38 yards, including a 21-yard scramble for a touchdown. And don’t forget, this was against a good Division I team that last season finished 9-3, spanked Notre Dame 35-17 and played in a bowl game, even if it was something called the Poinsetta Bowl.

 

Sasek won’t play this week against West Chester and it’s possible that a strong showing by his replacement last week, Tim Donnelly, will give coach K.C. Keeler a reason to rethink his decision to make Sasek No.1. But don’t count on it. Keeler hasn’t become one of the most successful and respected coaches in the business by misjudging talent, especially at the most important position in team sports. He knows a good thing when he sees it, and Sasek is a good thing.

 

That’s why Keeler didn’t feel the need to go out and get a Division I transfer, like he’s done so many times in the past. And any Division I quarterback who is thinking about transferring has to at least consider Delaware, considering all the success past transfers have had. If Flacco didn’t move to Delaware from Pittsburgh, where he was buried on the bench, he’d probably be sitting behind a desk somewhere wearing a coat and tie, which isn’t a bad thing, but not nearly as much fun as wearing a helmet and shoulder pads to work every day. Plus the pay is a lot better.

 

There are a lot of talented QBs like that out there. They were all-world in high school and were offered a dozen college football scholarships from big-name schools, only to find out that there are a lot of all-world players and they got scholarships, too.

 

A lot of fans don’t like the way Keeler has conducted his QB business, they don’t like the idea that a player can transfer and then take a job away from a kid who has been in the program since he was a freshman, a kid who has paid his dues. But that doesn’t give the transfer a chance to make a mistake and rectify it, and we all make mistakes. Again, Flacco is the perfect case in point. He was denied an opportunity at Pitt, but got it at Delaware and made the most of it. People like that should be applauded, not ridiculed.

 

Especially at Delaware, which used to win national championships with the Wing-T running game and now goes after them with a no-huddle passing game. Even though the Hens have a terrific young runner in sophomore Andrew Pierce, who rushed for 119 yards against Navy, Keeler’s offense has always depended on a quick-thinking, strong-armed quarterback to make it go. In the seasons where his quarterback has struggled some, so has his team. And when his quarterback has shined, the Blue Hens have gone to the national championship, which they’ve done four times under Keeler.

 

Now, for the first time, he’ll try to do it with a home-grown quarterback. And if that doesn’t work, well, he can always go fishing after another Division I player. As long as the Blue Hens remain a national power, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is or where he came from.

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