In many respects the University of Delaware football team can be forgiven for its lopsided loss to the Naval Academy on Saturday. The Hens were on the road for the first time, facing an unorthodox and challenging offense and most importantly were jumping a level in competition against the FBS Midshipmen. That the defense would allow 51 points is disappointing but not shocking. Since UD won't face another offensive scheme that blends talent and deception into a perfect mix of misery for opposing defenses, it will be easy to flush the struggles on that side of the ball down the proverbial drain.
What should cause Hens' fans some consternation however, was how little success the Delaware offense enjoyed on Saturday.
UD's offensive statistics were relatively solid in the first half. Dave Brock's team managed better than 200 total yards over the game's initial 30 minutes, but all that led to was seven measly points at intermission In the second half the yards went away and consequently Delaware did not add to its point total.
Entering Saturday the Hens had been averaging 46.5 points per game. What changed? Well the competition level certainly increased. Navy isn't Delaware State or Jacksonville, so it was going to be tougher to find success. At the same time though, the Midshipmen are not exactly an elite defense. They allowed more than 300 yards through the air in the season opener and start a freshman at cornerback.
The biggest thing that Navy took away from Delaware was the vertical passing game. UD managed just one pass play that went for 18-or-more-yards, and that ended with a fumble by tight end Nick Boyle. Wide receiver Michael Johnson entered the contest averaging better than 18 yards per catch.
Johnson and Rob Jones were virtually nonexistent in the loss. Johnson had just two catches, while Jones added only three. Those are Delaware's two most electric playmakers, and they got the ball into their hands just six times (Johnson also got one rushing attempt) in 64 snaps from scrimmage. That's not a ratio that will spell success for the Hens.
Coming into the game Brock said the key to beating Navy was to force a couple of turnovers and then to out-score them. Unfortunately for the first-year head coach it was the Hens who coughed the ball up, throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble.
It was only one loss, but it was an ugly one. Delaware may not have to worry about stopping a triple option offense that can also beat you through the air again, but they know scoring seven points is not going to be enough in a conference like the CAA. Hopefully it was just an aberration.