Maine Black Bears (1-3) at #16 Delaware Blue Hens (4-1)
Saturday 3:30 p.m. on 94.7 WDSD
Don’t Let History Repeat Itself?
It wasn’t so much that the University of Delaware lost last week at New Hampshire, but rather how the Hens were beaten. UD yielded 34 points and over 400 yards of total offense in the second half. UNH scored on six consecutive possessions to open the half, and stifled the Hen offense over the final 30 minutes. For a team getting its first taste of top-tier competition, it was not exactly a confidence-inspiring performance.
That is exactly the reason why head coach K.C. Keeler’s mantra after the team returned to Newark last weekend, and throughout the early portion of the week was; ‘Don’t let New Hampshire beat us twice.’
Keeler always seems to do a nice job of keeping a finger on his team’s pulse and realizing exactly when a particular button needs to be pushed. He knows his team was feeling awful good about itself after destroying William & Mary on the road two weeks ago. And he is also aware of the fact that swagger was knocked right out of them in New Hampshire.
For a young team, confidence can be an elusive prize. The Hens have to display some maturity by putting their disappointment behind them immediately and taking care of business against a struggling Maine team. It won’t be easy, but it has to be done.
Delaware Faces Must-Win Game On Saturday
It seems funny to say with a 4-1 record, but the University of Delaware is in an absolute must-win situation on Saturday against Maine. If the Hens want to reach the postseason, they have to get to eight wins. Obviously, being halfway there through only five games is a great start, but the schedule leaves little leeway for Delaware to get there.
The Hens still have games in front of them against Old Dominion and Towson. After giving up 34 points in the second half last week, any Delaware supporter has to be frightened for what the potent ODU offense might be able to do against them. A win on the road against the Monarchs seems highly unlikely right now.
Meanwhile, Towson figures to be no easier. Yes, a weaker Hens team did beat the Tigers on the road last season, and Towson will be coming to Newark this year, but this is a much-improved Towson squad as well. The Tigers just went to Baton Rouge and hung with LSU well into the second half. Delaware has beaten a Division II team, two mid-majors and a one-win William & Mary squad. Towson appears to be the likely favorite in that one.
That means Delaware has to win all of the rest of its games against Maine, Rhode Island, Richmond and Villanova. This is certainly a very attainable goal, but there is no margin for error. Accordingly, a loss on Saturday would be devastating to UD’s playoff aspirations.
The importance of this game makes Maine the perfect opponent to come into Delaware Stadium for the Hens. The Black Bears are leaking antifreeze at this point, entering the contest with a 1-3 mark. Maine’s lone victory of the season came against a winless Bryant team out of the Northeast Conference. The Black Bears’ losses have come by an average of 21 points, and in each of the setbacks they have surrendered at least 30 points.
Maine does have some talent on the offensive side of the ball however. Marcus Wasilewski became the first Black Bear quarterback to pass for over 400 yards in three full seasons when he accounted for a career-best 409 yards through the air in last week’s loss to Villanova.
Wasilewski has three dangerous options to attack with in the passing game. Maurice McDonald is the quintessential possession receiver. McDonald is a very solid route runner and has great hands, which have helped him record double-digit catches in each of the last two contests. On the outside, Arthur Williams’ speed can create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Against Villanova he had only three catches, but they were good for 104 yards and a touchdown. At tight end, Delaware native Justin Perillo is a very capable pass-catcher who also does a remarkable job blocking up front. Last season against the Hens, the Tatnall grad had four grabs for 62 yards in the Black Bears’ victory.
Keys To A Delaware Victory
1. Short Memories On Defense
You hear all the time how important it is for a defensive back to forget the previous play when he gets burned for a long gain by a receiver. Well, for the Delaware defense, last week’s second half in New Hampshire was one long continuous loop of big plays for the Wildcats. The Hens must learn from the mistakes they made in Durham, but at the same time put them in their rearview mirror. The Hens were guilty of trying to do more than their job called for on too many plays. Whether it was over-thinking, over-reading or just over-pursuing, Delaware surrendered too many first downs and points thanks to being out of position. Keeler and his staff stressed the necessity for each player to simply concentrate on fulfilling his responsibility each play this week. If the Hens got the message they should have a big bounce-back effort against Maine.
2. Get Better Pass Protection
Just like we said last week, too much of Delaware’s aerial attack is dependent upon the legs of quarterback Trent Hurley right now. The Hens had been able to use Hurley’s elusiveness to help their young offensive line on passing plays until last week. Hurley’s foot injury has limited his mobility though, and New Hampshire was able to take advantage. UD’s offensive line had issues picking up New Hampshire’s different blitz packages, and you can bet the house Jack Cosgrove and his staff will have an exotic look or two to try and present Delaware up front. It is certainly a wonderful weapon to have an athletic quarterback in your arsenal, but when that same signal caller needs to have time to deliver the ball from the pocket, it’s up to the offensive line to provide him that opportunity. At this point, it remains to be seen whether the Hens’ o-line is capable of doing that. If they aren’t, it’s hard to imagine how Delaware can possibly get the eight wins they need to reach the playoffs.
Considering this is a must-win game, Delaware has the more talented team and the Hens will be playing at home, this looks like a Delaware win all the way. Trent Hurley bounces back strong, the running game continues its steady improvement and the defense looks much more like it did against William & Mary rather than how it appeared at New Hampshire.
Delaware 28 Maine 13