The University of Delaware football program wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a 49-9 pasting of Wagner on Saturday. Wagner, who lost 27 seniors to graduation, could not compete with UD. The Hens would have gotten more resistance had their starters faced their backups, but winning always beats losing — even when the victory does not tell us much. Delaware is now one-third of its way through the 2013 season and I am still pretty murky on what kind of team this is.
After four games, UD’s body of work is very difficult to interpret. Delaware overwhelmed two completely hapless opponents (Wagner and Delaware State), statistically dominated a mid-major program (Jacksonville) and got physically man-handled by a good FBS team (Navy). The one common-denominator with all of those foes is that the Hens are unlikely to face any teams that good or that bad in CAA play.
I’m not the only one looking forward to getting a better chance at figuring out how good this team actually is. UD head coach Dave Brock said after Saturday’s rain-soaked rout that the verdict is still out on his squad.
“Like I told you before, we’ll find out a lot more about ourselves after about six games,” Brock said. “I’m pleased we were able to come out and play well. This was a tough night with tough weather. We need to clean some things up with some of the younger players. We’ve got eight conference games, so we’re looking forward to that and are ready to go.”
Delaware opens CAA play this week when it welcomes James Madison to Tubby Raymond Field. That game will go a long way in determining what exactly this group of Hens is capable of. It may only be the fifth contest on the schedule, but it matches the Hens with an elite FCS program, that is also 3-1, with an FBS loss and three wins over mid-major FCS schools. The Dukes are exactly the kind of team Delaware needs to be able to beat to be a playoff squad.
The rest of the schedule does not feature many gimme-games. UD will be heavily-favored to beat Rhode Island and Albany, but will either be very slight favorites or underdogs against its other six foes. Five more wins is what the Hens need in order to get to the playoffs. Saturday should provide a much clearer picture of just how likely that is to happen.
As up in the air as Delaware’s future prospects may seem, it was nothing compared to what the Baltimore Ravens faced entering Sunday. The defending world champions were buried by almost everyone after just two games. That may seem unfair, but after yielding seven touchdown-passes by Peyton Manning on Opening Night and then barely beating the Browns in week two, things looked pretty bleak in the Charm City.
But counting the Ravens out is always a dangerous proposition, which Baltimore proved yet again on Sunday when it spanked the Houston Texans, 30-9.
John Harbaugh’s defense turned in a vintage performance, holding the Texans to just 264 yards and three field goals, while setting the offense up with great field position all day. Baltimore was actually out-gained by Houston (264-236), but the Ravens converted 8-of-16 third downs and strung together four scoring drives. They also got an interception returned for a touchdown by Darryl Smith and an 82-yard punt return for a score from Tandon Doss.
The story was the defense though. With Ed Reed playing for the Texans (in the former Raven’s Houston-debut) and Ray Lewis watching the game from the sidelines in a suit (the future-Hall-of-Famer was being honored during halftime), many were anticipating a big day for Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Instead the trio put up pedestrian numbers, with Foster being held to 54 yards, Schaub averaging just 5.4 yards per pass attempt and Johnson grabbing only five balls for a measly 36 yards.
Much to the delight of the home crowd, Baltimore made Schaub’s life especially difficult. The Ravens sacked the Houston quarterback three times and pressured him almost every time he dropped back to throw. His second-quarter pick-six changed the game, turning a 6-3 Houston lead into a Ravens’ advantage they would never relinquish.
This may not be the same group that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last season, but the identity remains intact; A tough bunch that seems to relish adversity. They proved once again on Sunday that to count them out prematurely is a fool’s errand.