New Hampshire is a wonderful place, filled with natural beauty and friendly people, and it has, hands down, the best state motto in the country: Live Free or Die.
That certainly beats You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania, not to mention It’s Good Being First.
And, under normal circumstances, K.C. Keeler, an outdoorsy kind of guy, would probably love New Hampshire. But he and his University of Delaware football team just visited there and, well, it wasn’t a good trip. Delaware fell apart in the second half and lost to the Wildcats 34-14.
Keeler addressed his team after that game and delivered a simple message.
“I told the kids, ‘We lost a game — we didn’t lose a season,’ ” Keeler said.
However, the Blue Hens may, indeed, have lost a season by losing a single game. New Hampshire was just their first loss of the year, but nobody expects it to be their last because it looks like Delaware has a good, but not great, team this year. That means, just like last year, they’ll probably end up hanging by a thread when it comes time to announce the teams selected to play in the FBS playoffs.
That’s what happened in 2011, and last year’s Rhode Island could be this year’s New Hampshire. Last season, the Blue Hens fell flat on their facemasks in a 38-34 loss to the Rams that eventually cost them dearly as the Hens were passed over for a playoff berth. Delaware gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter to Rhode Island and they gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter to New Hampshire.
The Blue Hens play in the tough Colonial Athletic Association and nobody gets through the conference unblemished. So, the fact that Delaware lost a conference game isn’t that big a deal, because they’ve always lost conference games and they always will lose conference games. And some losses are, if not acceptable, at least understandable. The loss to Rhode Island last year wasn’t and neither was this year’s loss to New Hampshire, because good teams win when they have a lead in the fourth quarter. And because the CAA is so tough, you can’t afford to let any conference game slip away from you. But that’s what happened last year and that’s what happened this year
And that could once again hurt them with the selection committee, which is critical because it’s unlikely the Hens will win the CAA and the automatic berth that goes with it and their best chance at the playoffs is an at-large berth. That’s why every victory, every spot in the rankings, is important – the margin of error is that small.
How small? How much can one game impact a season? Well, Delaware went into the New Hampshire game ranked No. 8 in the nation and came out of it ranked No. 16. A team ranked 8th has a pretty good shot at an at-large bid, but a team ranked 16th has no shot at all.
Another factor that doesn’t help the Hens: Even though the CAA is still the best conference in the FCS – there are five CAA teams in the Top 25 this week – it’s not the dominant force it once was and doesn’t have quite as much clout with the NCAA selection committee as it once did. In the recent past you could always count in the CAA getting multiple NCAA bids, but the times have changed. And only time will tell if the Blue Hens did really lose a season as well as a game.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.