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Monday, March 8, 2021

Blue Hens' Season Off to a Strong Start

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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 was just one game against a superior team and it would be foolish to read too much into it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t read a little bit into it. And right now it doesn’t look like it’s going be to a bang-up first year for Dave Brock, the new football coach at the University of Delaware.

The Blue Hens were manhandled last Saturday in a 51-7 loss to Navy. Of course, Navy is an FBS team (or, as we still like to call it, Division A) and it’s no disgrace for an FCS (or Division I-AA) team like Delaware to lose to one of the big boys. Still, 51-7 is a bad whipping no matter the whipper or the whippee.

It appears Delaware will end its short-lived series against Delaware State because it hasn’t been competitive, but the Hens would be better off ending their series with Navy for the same reason – the last time Delaware beat Navy was in 2007 when future Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco led them to a 59-52 victory. In the two games between the two since then, Navy won twice by a combined score of 75-35. So, the Hens need either another Flacco or another opponent to fill out their schedule.

Anyhow, now the Hens can focus on the rest of their schedule and one thing working in their favor, at least to a point, is the fact that the Colonial Athletic Association isn’t as omnipotent as it used to be. The CAA is still probably the best FCS conference in the country, but it’s no longer the only one. The CAA used to dominated the polls, but the latest one has “just’’ six CAA teams in the Top 25. That’s not bad, but the CAA used to have that many teams in the Top 10, not just the Top 25, and right now it only has one Top 10 team, No. 4 Towson.

Of course, none of those ranked teams is Delaware. The Blue Hens are eighth in the “also received votes’’ category with 113 points – or 3,785 fewer points than No. 1 North Dakota State.

So, even though Delaware is a long shot to win the CAA championship that will probably be its only shot at returning to the FCS playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Having a decent year in the CAA used to practically guarantee an at-large bid to the playoffs, but not anymore. Anything is possible, but it’s hard to see the Hens putting together the overall record that gets them into the postseason without a CAA championship in their pockets.

So, that means the first real indication of where the Hens are and where they might possibly go will come two Saturdays from now, when Delaware opens its conference schedule against James Madison at Delaware Stadium on September 28. James Madison is one of the CAA teams that is ranked (17th), so the Dukes will be a good measuring stick for Delaware.

But November will be the real test as the Hens face three of the CAA’s ranked teams, starting off with No. 4 Towson on November 2. Then Delaware finishes the regular season against the one-two punch of No. 23 Richmond and No. 20 Villanova.

Of course, none of those games will mean anything if the Blue Hens don’t take care of business against teams like Wagner, their opponent this Saturday. And we have no idea whether they will or not. It’s difficult to get a handle on this team after it clobbered an inferior team and then got clobbered by a superior one.

People around here are used to Delaware competing for a national championship on a regular basis. But those days are long gone and nobody knows if they’ll ever return.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonak32@aol.com.

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