We have said it before and after Saturday it has to be mentioned again: The only thing the University of Delaware football team has done consistently in 2013 is be inconsistent. UD returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against William & Mary, which meant dating back to the previous week’s wild come-from-behind win over Towson, the Hens had scored 22 points in a 61-second span. They then managed just three points over the final 59:45 against the Tribe on the way to a devastatingly disappointing 24-10 setback.
How do you figure this team out? Are they a good team that loses its way from time to time, or a mediocre one that has benefitted from two miraculous fourth-quarter rallies?
The answer is unclear thanks in large part to the fact that even Delaware’s perceived strengths and weaknesses vacillate back and forth.
The Hens have one of the best and deepest defensive lines in the CAA, so it would make sense that running the football against them would be fruitless. Yet UD has yielded 210 yards per game on the ground in conference play, and the inability to stop the run has led directly to all three of Delaware’s losses, as well as both of its near-misses.
It works the other way too however. Coming into the season the Hens’ offensive line was the program’s biggest question mark. They allowed 30 sacks a season ago, but while they still struggle from time to time, they have been an incredibly pleasant surprise in 2013, surrendering just 16 sacks through 10 games.
What’s up is down and what’s down is up. That’s why they can rally back from an eight-point deficit in less than three minutes, or dig their way out of a 21-point fourth-quarter hole, and then run for -35 yards the very next contest.
The way William & Mary shut down Andrew Pierce and the rest of the Delaware ground game was startling. It has now been two consecutive sub-par performances for the Hens’ rushing attack. UD ran for just 90 yards at Towson. Considering head coach Dave Brock’s primary offensive philosophy revolves around establishing the run to open up options through the air, ground numbers like that are disastrous for Delaware.
Making it further problematic is the Hens’ current quarterback situation. Trent Hurley is healthy enough to have been deemed available by Brock last week, but the junior signal caller has taken a career’s worth of punishment in just a season-and-a-half. He missed the Towson game due to injury and is probably nowhere near 100 percent. Meanwhile, backup Trevor Sasek authored an incredible fourth quarter to top the eighth-ranked Tigers, but has been pedestrian in his other seven periods under center.
Dropping back and throwing 35 times per game is not going to be a successful strategy for the Hens right now. Hurley and Sasek can both make plays, but asking them to singlehandedly win games with their arms is simply asking too much. Fixing the running game better happen soon, or inconsistency won’t be Delaware’s problem anymore because they will be losing with regularity.
Incredibly the Hens have clawed their way to seven wins in 10 games despite these issues. They have an incredibly winnable game coming on Saturday at home against Richmond. If UD takes care of business against the Spiders it will likely be headed to the postseason, which would be a nice accomplishment in Brock’s first season as head coach. So it could be much worse, but finding some semblance of consistency would be a reprieve for fans who have been riding the roller coaster of emotions thanks to this Delaware team all season long.