This is not how it was supposed to unfold. Before this season began, you’d be hard-pressed to find many pundits predicting Delaware would be out of postseason contention prior to Election Day. But that is exactly what happened thanks to the Hens’ 34-27 overtime loss to Towson on Saturday.
“We dug ourselves a hole and we let the hole collapse on us,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler about his team’s back-breaking fourth loss of the season. “I asked them to physically, mentally and emotionally commit. And they did. They played with tremendous emotion all day long and I was really proud of them. It’s really difficult to do that two weeks in a row, especially after having a game that didn’t go your way last week. But they gave me everything they’ve got. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Keeler’s hole analogy was referring to the big picture. But in some ways it was appropriate for the Towson game as well. The Hens fell behind 21-10 eight minutes into the third quarter. Delaware was able to bounce back and regain the lead early in the fourth, but the Tigers were still in a position to put together a go-ahead drive in the final moments of regulation.
Towson marched 80 yards on 15 plays in 6:37 to take a three-point edge with just 44 seconds left in the final period. Delaware did manage to get the game to overtime, but according to Keeler, it never should have gotten that far.
“There were just too many fourth-and-shorts and third-down conversions that they made that changed this whole ball game,” Keeler said. “We should never have let them drive down there at the end and they converted a fourth down that was big, so we had our opportunities to finish the game off. We just never did.”
Senior linebacker Paul Worrilow, who now knows his collegiate career will come to a close in two weeks against Villanova, whole-heartedly agreed with his head coach.
“I’m pretty upset with myself and the other guys,” the Hens’ captain said. “I hold myself accountable first. I take the blame, because we didn’t make enough plays when we had to. We had a good chance at the end of the game to just put it away, get off the field, give our offense the ball back with the lead and we failed to do that. It’s a heavy burden, but I take it.
The linebacker said the overtime loss left him with an eerie feeling of deja vu.
“I feel like I’m saying the same things as last week because they just made some plays and out-executed us,” Worrilow lamented. “We had a chance where if we made a play, we could turn the game around and get off the field, and we just failed to do that. But that’s what you need to do if you want to win ball games when you’re in that position- you have to make the play- and we failed to do that.
Without the playoffs as motivation, Delaware’s attention turns squarely to the future. That’s obviously a difficult adjustment for a team to have to make, especially for the seniors. Keeler acknowledges it won’t be easy for his emotionally drained players.
“We’re playing for pride, and that’s not who we want to be,” Keeler said. “You want to talk about tough? Next week’s going to be even tougher than (last) week. Bouncing back after a tough loss last week, they gave me everything they had. Now, it’s even going to be tougher because you just committed two weeks in a row, where we got everything out of these guys, and both times we came up empty.
“Now what do you do? So it’s going be a big challenge for us this week and it will be interesting to see how we respond.”
It’s not the kind of challenge Keeler and his players were hoping for in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but unfortunately, it’s the new reality for the Hens.