Villanova Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) at Delaware Blue Hens (5-5, 2-5)
Saturday 3:30 p.m. on 94.7 WDSD
Send The Seniors Off In Style
The class of 2012 has run the full gauntlet during their time in the University of Delaware football program. For those who redshirted in 2008, their indoctrination to Newark came in the midst of the worst season in program history. Anyone who arrived a season later joined a program that was left trying to put together the pieces after the 4-8 injury-plagued debacle of a season. In 2009, the current seniors learned what mediocrity felt like as they trudged their way to 6-5. A year later, they came within minutes of immortality, allowing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead to slip away in the national championship game. Then last season, the Hens came agonizingly close to getting back to the playoffs, only to fall victim to a technicality, when Delaware’s win over Division II West Chester cost them a postseason berth.
In many ways, this 2012 season has been a microcosm of the seniors’ careers. They were a top-10 team early, just like they were as sophomores. They dealt with the pressure of playing against elite competition on the postseason bubble, like they experienced as juniors, and now have fallen back to the realm of mediocrity thanks to a late three-game losing streak. In other words, they’re right back where they started as freshmen.
But in between, men like Paul Worrilow and Nijah White have etched their imprint into the foundation of K.C. Keeler’s program. This year did not turn out like either had hoped, both individually and as a team. White dealt with injuries early, while Worrilow has been plagued by an injury of late. Their numbers this season may not be other-worldy, but their impact on the team has been unwavering.
White has been the man head coach K.C. Keeler has sent every recruit to see when they take their official visit to Delaware. Keeler called him the program’s ambassador. The coach also spoke incredibly highly of Worrilow, calling him one of the all-time greats in program-history.
Sometimes senior day leads to false praise. But with White and Worrilow, there is no such thing. Every kind word spoken about these two young men has been earned. So while some may call Saturday’s game against Villanova meaningless, for the Hens, no one would dare say anything like that within earshot of White or Worrilow.
It means everything to them, and in what might be the best measure of their impact on the program, it means everything to their teammates as well. The underclassmen at Delaware clearly want nothing more than to send White, Worrilow and the rest of the senior class out as winners.
Every team says that entering senior day. Few teams actually mean it. This one clearly does.
Villanova Very Much Alive
In any other season, the Wildcats would have already punched their ticket to the FCS playoffs. Nova has seven Division I wins, have road victories over a pair of top-10 teams and have played an FBS opponent. Yet, thanks to the parity that has suddenly infiltrated the FCS nationally, Nova needs a win on Saturday at Delaware Stadium to punch its postseason ticket.
A win would also cap off what has been a remarkable turnaround for Andy Talley’s program. After winning the national championship in 2009 and losing in the national semifinals in 2010, Nova won just two games last season. To his credit, Talley recognized early on in 2012 that his team would struggle to find success in the CAA, so he played as many young players as possible.
The Wildcats grew up in front of everyone’s eyes, routing UMASS in the second-to-last game of the year and then hanging tight the whole way with a Delaware team that thought it was playing for a postseason berth of its own in the season finale.
Everything changed for Nova this season when Talley made a quarterback switch on opening night against Temple. Freshman John Robertson was inserted into the game and did not leave the lineup again until suffering a concussion last week at James Madison. In between, the first-year signal caller won seven of his nine starts, passed for 1,637 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran for 802 yards and 12 more scores.
A Villanova school official told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Robertson passed his concussion tests and had no issues during practice on Thursday morning so he has been declared fit to play. Good news for the Wildcats, because he is what makes Talley’s offense dynamic.
Keys To A Delaware Victory
Protect the ball. Trent Hurley has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. His four picks doomed Delaware’s chances of a road upset at Richmond last week, and if the sophomore signal caller does not make better decisions on Saturday, giveaways will sink the Hens’ opportunity to send their seniors off in style in the season finale.
John Robertson presents a true multi-dimensional threat. He throws the ball surprisingly well for a freshman. His decision-making in the pass game is sound and his arm is strong. What makes Robertson scary is that despite his adept passing skills, he is a far better runner than thrower. It will be interesting to see if the quarterback runs with his normal physicality after suffering a concussion at James Madison last week. Obviously the Hens do not want to hurt Robertson, but they have to hit him every time he decides to take off out of the pocket. With Delaware’s linebacker corps depleted by injury, the Hens will have a tough time containing the mobile freshman, especially on third down. If Robertson extends drives by picking up third downs, it will be a long night for Delaware.
Delaware continues to play the “close, but no cigar” game. The Hens have suffered three straight losses, all of which have come by less than a touchdown. Despite all the talk of new rivalries developing for Delaware, this is still the Hens’ biggest game every season. A victory in the Battle of the Blue might not be enough to salvage a disappointing season, but it would ease some of the frustration that has inundated the Hens over the last three weeks. Alas, that motivation won’t be enough to overcome a Villanova team that will be playing for its postseason lives. The Wildcats will turn Delaware into a one-dimensional offense, and then will spend the rest of the afternoon trying to destroy that dimension. If the line does not protect Hurley, this could get ugly. I think UD’s seniors have too much pride to let that happen, but the injury-ravaged Hens just don’t have enough available talent to knock off Nova.
Villanova 27 Delaware 13